As the year winds down yet again — didn’t we just do this a year ago? — everybody and his brother has a top ten list for the year and I’m still no different. It helps, I think, to stop and reflect on what happened over the previous year which puts the whole year in perspective and makes it easier to prepare for the coming one. So here are my choices for the top ten beer stories of 2007.
Irish Brewing in the Bronze Age: While seemingly a historical side note story, I think this has the potential to change how we view beer’s history in civilization, especially in Europe, where most our modern brewing heritage has its origins. If bronze age Ireland was brewing it means the impact of beer on mankind began far earlier than originally believed.
Lewes Arms Boycott Successful: I’m a sucker for the underdog and the small fry. The citizens of a small pub in the middle of nowhere took on pub giant Greene King to save their local beer being served in its home town. Greene King foolishly let it go on far longer than was prudent but eventually saw the light and relented.
Sam Adams vs. Sam Adams: The Boston Beer Company, owner of the trademarked Samuel Adams eponymous beers, went head to head in late October with a flesh and blood Sam Adams running for mayor of Portland. In a battle between a corporation’s fictional, but oddly legal, personhood and the real life variety, my money’s always on the real Sam Adams. For Boston Beer it was a public relations disaster and even their half-hearted apology seemed flat. On the plus side, Boston Beer did announce they’d be brewing at the old Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, which is good for that town. The one they were planning in Freetown, Massachusetts, on the other hand, after months of rumors, was finally canceled.
The Loss of Steve Harrison: Steve Harrison was Sierra Nevada Brewing‘s first employee and was as much responsible for its success, especially early on, as owner Ken Grossman and the rest of the crew from Chico. When he went missing under mysterious circumstances in August, it took a week of searching the area before his body turned up in the river. His passing was a huge and terrible loss to the brewing industry.
It’s Official! Double-Digit Craft Beer Growth Again!: It was another terrific year for craft beer and although there are problems in the horizon, three years of double-digit growth suggests that craft beer is on the right track. Barring some foreseen shortages, things are likely to continue to be rosy for the foreseeable future.
Widmer & Redhook Merger: Rumored since at least January, Widmer and Redhook agreed to merge in November.
Michael Jackson Passes Away: This was a huge and somewhat unexpected blow to the cause of better beer. Many of us who’d known Michael for a time had speculated about his health and last year he had finally publicly announced that he’d been battling Parkinson’s for at least ten years. I know I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew Parkinson’s could be treated and wasn’t the immediate threat it had once been. So when I got the news I was taken aback, as were most of us in the industry. It was news of the worst kind, especially coming on the heels of the losses of several other beer industry personalities throughout 2007: Alan Eames, Steve Harrison and John White. As I’ve said many times before, Michael’s impact on the craft beer industry here in the U.S. and better beer throughout the world cannot be overestimated. He was a singular talent that I can’t imagine being replaced. And beyond the loss to the industry, for me personally I think Michael Jackson’s death should be nearer the top because it’s doubly difficult and surprisingly emotional to lose a friend so unexpectedly.
Assaults on Beer by Neo-Prohibitionists & Wine Writers: Perhaps because of craft beers’ recent gains and renewed attention, the number of attacks on beer by both anti-alcohol groups and misguided and ignorant beverage and food journalists seemed to be on the rise with hardly a week passing without yet another egregious example. Neo-prohibitionists accused beer of all sorts of evil and wine writers blasted beer with all manner of misinformation and twisted statistics. Here’s a sample of some of the worst:
- Beer Drinkers More Irreligious
- License Plates as Free Speech
- Neo-Prohibitionist Math
- Beer Is Dead
- Against the Ropes
- Criminal Parenting
- Real Hop-Sicles
- Researchers Target Beer As Binge Drink of Choice
- California Redefines Distilled Spirits
- Putting On Airs
- Today Alcopops, Tomorrow Beer
- MADD Takes On Gladys Kravitz Role
- Target: Alcohol
- Got … A Sense of Humor?
- Spot the Drunk
- Prohibition Returns
- Mothers For Social Drinking
- Not Just Age and Taxes
Coors & Miller to Merge U.S. Operations: In an unexpected, if not altogether surprising move, the second and third largest American beer companies decided to pool their efforts in competing against number one. What the impact will be on the rest of the industry still remains to be seen, but I, for one, am not convinced it will be all for the better or that there’s nothing to fret about.
The Hop and Malt Shortages: The shortages of hops got most of the attention but shortages of malt is just as serious. This could not have happened at a worse time for the industry as shortages quite possibly could have disastrous consequences for continuing the roll that craft beer has been on for a half-decade.
And what will next year bring? See tomorrow’s post with my predictions for the beer industry in 2008.