Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
If any month is made for tasting good
American craft beer, it is July.
First, July is the month we celebrate the
birthday of the United States. Even before we declared our
independence, beer was essential to American life.
Native Americans brewed beer long before the
United States was born. The first record of non-native brewing dates
from 1587 in Virginia, while the first shipment of beer arrived from
England in the Virginia colony in 1607.
In 1614 the first non-native American baby
was born in a brewhouse in New Amsterdam. Jean Vigne grew up to
become the first brewer born in the New World.
The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in the
Massachusetts Colony in 1620. The Mayflower was close to running out
of its supply of beer, and the crew sent their passengers ashore to
ensure they had enough beer for their return trip.
Brewing, and breweries, spread throughout
the colonies. In 1765 a brewery was built in a French colonial
settlement in what is now Illinois, becoming the first brewery
outside the thirteen original colonies.
In 1772, back in England, a mixture of dark
to light malts called Porter is first brewed, though it failed to
gain popularity in America.
We could say the American Revolution was
fueled by beer. Congress authorized a ration of one quart of spruce
beer or cider for each serviceman each day.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had
breweries on their estates. John Hancock was known to enjoy a
well-crafted brew, going back to his student days at Harvard.
Patrick Henry owned a tavern where he tended bar. Of course, we
already know about Sam Adams.
After the Revolution, under a “Buy American”
policy, George Washington would only drink Porter brewed in America.
During the 1800s two major factors shaped
the role of beer in American history. The first was unrest in
Germany which encouraged significant German emigration to the United
States. This wave of immigration included a large number of
experienced German brewers and German brewing methods. These
immigrants brought with them a style of beer which would become
synonymous with American brewing, the Pilsner.
The second factor was the development, state
by state, of a temperance movement which pushed for prohibition of
all alcoholic beverages, including beer.
By 1880, the number of breweries in the
United States was declining, though industrial methods of production
and distribution meant fewer breweries could produce more beer.
In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the
Constitution calling for Prohibition was ratified. In 1933, the 21st
Amendment, repealing the 18th, was ratified.
Iy was not until 1978 the United States
legalized the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for
personal consumption. The home brewing community sparked the
explosion of small craft breweries.
Craft beer has even been brewed in the White
Last year, 2016, the number of breweries in
the United States surpassed 5,000 for the first time.
Beer has played a pivotal role in the
development and history of the United States.
In addition to celebrating beer’s role in
American life, July is also conducive to tasting beer because it is
a long, warm month.
Now, I tend to prefer darker, heavier beers
like Porters and Stouts. I also enjoy many of the winter seasonal
beers many breweries produce. It is difficult to argue, though, the
heat of July does not make drinking beer a pleasant way to spend
Warm weather enhances the experience of
drinking cold beer. It brings out the flavor of lighter beers and
increases my enjoyment of hoppy IPAs. Visiting the nearest brewery
or tasting room is a great way to experience the joys of July for
There are, of course, many other ways to
taste summertime craft brews. Beer bars and restaurants, picnics and
grilling at home are all great ways to try new beers. I understand
some people even drink beer at baseball games.
July is an excellent opportunity to try
lighter beers, but remember the flavor, and the alcohol content, of
the beer do not always coincide with its color. Beer which look
lighter are not necessarily lighter tasting, or lower in alcohol by
Celebrate like an American and try something
new this July.
Greg Richardson is a leadership and
organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive,
and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.