CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 17 Made in America: Part II - Page 74

W W W. C R A F T BY U M H . C O M For the last 30 to 40 years, microbrewing a.k.a. craft brewing has brought “local” beer into the spotlight. Brewers and consumers both celebrated a revolution of full-bodied flavor, rich colors, and diverse styles. Independent entrepreneurs broke the mold of the industri- alized homogenous light lagers that dominated the market, pro- duced by corporate giants. They put brewhouses front and center and showed the world who and how they brewed their beer. The emergent craft beer scene ran parallel to the farm to table move- ment, where small farms and other makers similarly broke free from commodity markets and sought a closer connection to restaurateurs, consumers, and chefs. Beer is an agricultural product, made from primarily barley, hops, water, and yeast. However, from an agricul- tural sense, there was a key difference. The shift to choice and diversity that came with craft certainly changed the market for the positive and raised the bar for quality and depth of flavor. It also changed how beer drinkers assess and value beer. However, in most instances, the beer’s sense of place was lim- ited to brewery personalities, tap rooms, employees, and communi- ties. From an agricultural sense, they were “locally made” instead of “locally grown.” At first, the tiny breweries on the front edge of the movement had to acquire whatever hops and barley they could from suppliers who were built to service the massive breweries that sold to a very na- tionalized marketplace. Raw materials were contracted out for years to big buyers and shipped by railcar and truckload. A small brewer, new to the scene, did not have many options for small quantities on the spot-market. Other than a few specialized growing regions, the ingredients weren’t likely to have been grown close to home or even traceable to specific farms. Little by little, agricultural suppliers to the brewing industry adapted and innovated in order to serve the changing landscape and industry. Early on, it took agents of change like Ralph Olson and Ralph Woo- dall, “The Ralphs” who fought hard to make quality hop selections available to microbrewers in reasonable quantities with their maver- ick hop brokerage, Hop Union LLC. It was also seemingly simple shifts made by champions like Rog- er Briess, who began the fourth generation of family leadership at Briess Malting in 1971. Briess, also a homebrewer, was the first to sell malted barley to brewers by the fifty-pound bag, a small, yet unde-