Business Week online yesterday had an interesting article entitled Micro Beers Brew Up Big Business, with this promising subtitle: The brewing industry is becoming more consolidated, but for aficionados in the U.S. there has never been a better time to drink—or make—beer.
Typically, Adam Smith’s ghost is invoked and misapplied to suggest that “markets do work over time” and that’s why “[t]hroughout the 20th century local and regional breweries in the U.S. closed by the thousands as improved transportation and the economies of scale led to increasing consolidation” and that today because of it “the [beer] business is dominated by a handful of industrial-scale giants.” Smith, for anybody who’s actually read what he wrote, would have been appalled by the consolidation of so many industries. Even in his day, he thought large corporations were dangerous and needed to be kept in check. Conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke, of all people, has a book out right now called On the Wealth of Nations, that offers a witty overview of Smith’s famous work.
That annoyance aside, what follows is a quick overview of the last 35 years in beerdom and his choices for 10 absolutely top-notch winners. From the text, I assume he attended GABF last year as he confesses to not trying all 1,884 that were poured at the festival. So while others who’ve picked up this story are saying they’re the “Top 10 Best American Beers,” the author himself is not saying that. They’re just ten great beers that he did manage to try, though in a remarkable coincidence each of his ten is available in a bottle.
There are, of course, some world class beers on his list — Anchor Liberty definitely deserves to be there — and a few head-scratchers (not that I’m naming names) but this is the sort of list that no two people will ever agree on. There’s also a slideshow showing the bottles and labels to all ten beers.
- Alaskan Pale
- Anchor Liberty Ale
- Anderson Valley Boont ESB (formerly Belk’s ESB)
- Breckenridge 471 IPA
- Full Sail Amber
- Ommegang Abbey Ale
- Ringwood Old Thumper Extra Special Ale (Shipyard)
- Rogue Shakespeare Stout
- Sprecher Black Bavarian Style Lager
- Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady Ale