Wow, the time, it flies! American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) is rolling around again, from May 13-19. It's the eighth annual self-toasting by the Brewers Association, the alliance of small and independent (debatable/relative terms, but that's a discussion for another day) beer makers, marketers, distributors, and peripheral biz peeps. This year's motto is "Big Week, Small Breweries." Julia Herz, the Brewers Association's program director, says that the event "is about uniting for a common cause: support and celebration of our nation's small and independent brewers and the millions of beer lovers who have helped evolve an industry and put the US on the brewing map."
The growth of better beer got ever-more-bubbly in 2012: there are now more than 2400 crafters (up 400 from '12, an almost-even split of brewpubs and breweries), which accounted for a 15 percent rise in volume and a 17 percent boost in dollar growth. But the requisite perspective: 93.5 out of 100 beers consumed in the US is a mass-market offering.
Locally, there has been much to celebrate since last year's ACBW: the arrival of new brewers Foolproof, the Bucket, and Ravenous, and the steady growth of last year's new kids, Revival and Grey Sail; new beer-centric bars (the What Cheer Tavern) and the welcome proliferation of craft offerings statewide; the Rhode Island Brew Fest had a successful debut at the Pawtucket Armory in February, and the Newport Craft Beer Festival expanded to two sold-out sessions last month; and exemplary beers from Uinta, Maine Beer Company, Mission, Element, and Weyerbacher entered (or reentered) our market.
Last year the ACBW folks posted a "Declaration of Beer Independence." This year's fervent call to arms (or elbow bending) is deemed a manifesto. Here are some choice passages: "American craft beer is an artistic creation made by passionate innovators. I declare myself to be a devoted acolyte, enthusiast and fanatic, and that setting high standards for quality and character in the beers I drink is not snobbery, but good taste . . . We have thrown off the chains of low expectations, and now taste sweet freedom in every glass of American craft beer . . . Craft brewers represent the purest form of the American spirit and are dedicated to nurturing and enriching their communities. I declare this community of American craft brewers and beer enthusiasts to be a rare and beautiful thing — a force for good and for positive change in our country. I pledge to support this glorious group with my time, effort, and genuine good will." I'll drink to that! (You can download the manifesto — and sign it, "in beer" — at craftbeer.com.)