Since 2006, the Brewers Association, the alliance of US beer makers, marketers, distributors, and other biz folks, has held American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) in May (pre-'06 July was American Beer Month). The goal is to "celebrate the culture and community of craft beer." One could argue that the celebration is happening 24/7/365 these days, given the giddy growth of the craft market in the last few years. Some quick numbers: there are now more than 2000 independent beer makers in the US, from the Big Boys (Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada) to the Little Guys (Wandering Star, White Birch). Sales were up 15 percent in 2011 (to $8.7 billion). But there's a long way to go: 94 out of 100 beers consumed in the US is a mass-market offering. The craft beer share "is a small piece of the pie," said the BA's Julia Herz, "but it's a big pie."
Locally, there has been much to celebrate since last year's ACBW: the arrival of new brewers Revival and Grey Sail; the Malted Barley brought a wide array of craft beer (and gourmet pretzels!) to Westerly; the Newport Craft Beer Festival had a rousingly successful debut (sold-out and very well received); and the top-notch beers from Bear Republic, Sixpoint, Firestone Walker, Founders, and Goose Island entered our market. In the coming months we're anticipating the announcement of Narragansett's new beer-making home, and the first offerings from two crafters based in Pawtucket — High Jinx Brewing and the Bucket Brewery. (And they're not alone: Paul Gatza, the president of the Brewers Association, reported at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego last week that more than 1100 beerists-to-be are hoping to go pro.)
So: It's time to toast the Beer Renaissance/Revolution/Revival/Real Deal. The ACBW folks have drafted (oof, sorry) a "Declaration of Beer Independence," a heartfelt manifesto on an ersatz parchment which can be downloaded at craftbeer.com. Some choice passages: "I declare the beer I choose to enjoy is not a commodity, but more importantly an artistic creation of living liquid history made from passionate innovators. The beer I drink furthers our culture and teaches us geography and helps to nurture a sense of community, and helps to make the world a better place . . . I declare to champion the message of responsible enjoyment of craft beer, the beverage of moderation, as the makers of these beers produce libations of substance and soul that are sincere and authentic, and the enjoyment of them is about savoring the gastronomic qualities including flavor, aroma, body and mouthfeel, while practicing responsible appreciation." That's pure poetry — I'll have what they're having!
American Craft Beer Week runs from May 14-20. Around here, the week in October that leads up to Beervana has become the Main Event on the beer calendar. But there will be many happenings statewide. Here’s what’s on tap [so far; check back for updates]: