Just to warn y’all, this month, I decided to dust off my soap box and get to some rantin’ and ravin’ about that beautiful fermented beverage we all love. My tirade all starts with the beginning of our beloved US of A.
From the start, colonists needed something to keep them warm in the harsh winters and to help them forget about how generally shitty life was in the 17th century. To this end, most households would brew their own beer. Visitors would gather around the hearth, libations would be served, and stories would be told and retold, and, for that brief moment, colony life would become bearable. Many of our founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for example, were home brewers.
So for much of early United States history, there was a great variety of local and home brewed beer to be had. Life was good—that is, until prohibition. In 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the production, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.
In addition to creating a perfect black market on which organized crime could grow rich, prohibition effectively eliminated the local brewing traditions in the U.S. When this foray into Puritanism was repealed in 1933, most local breweries were out of business. The environment was perfect for large, regional breweries to come along and dominate the market with relatively mild and generic lagers.
Fast forward to the late 1980s and early 1990s. American craft breweries begin opening and showing customers how sublime beer can really be. Delicious, inventive, and distinct beer is brewed and American beer drinkers rejoice… and everyone drank happily ever after.
Alas, dear reader, if only that was the end. This isn’t a beer fairy tale. Recently, the two largest brewing conglomerates in the world, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, have gone on a buying spree. According to NPR, the two companies now own more than 200 different brands in 42 countries, including 18 in the U.S.
This would all be well and good, but these two multi-nationals have nefarious intentions. Buying a brewery and letting the brewery continue to produce its product would be one matter, but these cash-hungry giants have been known to change the brewing techniques to cut cost and maximize profits.
This means that a beer will be brewed under the same name, but with different hops, less malt, more rice, and other adjuncts. This is certainly not the case with every brand owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, but it is with some.
Don’t lose hope, dear reader; there is good news. Unlike global climate change, genocide, or dolphin poaching, you can do something about this. It is as simple as knowing what you drink.
Don’t worry, I am not about to tell you that it is bad to drink anything that isn’t a Colorado craft brew. For a game of pong, some stump, or any other occasion requiring copious libations, there is nothing better than a cheap 30 rack. However, when you want something a little more refined, take an extra moment to think about what you are drinking.
Why buy Shock Top or Blue Moon, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller respectively, when you could get a number of great wheat beers brewed by local Colorado breweries. This way you are not just drinking better beer, but you are also supporting a local business.
I know I sound like the pretentious brew snob that I am, but we are lucky to live in a microbrew state like Colorado and we should do our part to keep the local brew tradition going.