“It is a story populated by quintessential American characters: heroes and villains, hippies and yuppies, oenophiles and teetotalers, gangsters and G-men, men in kilts and men in suits.”
Those words from the prologue to Tom Acitelli’s The Audacity Of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution, define this 340-plus page love story to craft beer and its growth, or rather revolution, as the title states.
Acitelli traces the rebirth of the American craft beer movement from its humble beginnings in San Francisco where Fritz Maytag, of the famous Maytag family, simply ordered an Anchor Steam® Beer at The Old Spaghetti Factory one August day in 1965 and, by the end of September, found himself the majority owner of the last craft brewery in the nation at the time.
That was just one part of a story that is full of chance meetings, coincidental relationships, governmental complications, and sheer passion that ultimately leads to the amazing craft beer scene we experience not just here in the Philadelphia area but, as Acitelli points out, worldwide as the influence of the American craft beer scene creeps out beyond our borders.
Acitelli’s journey takes you through the forces of history that shaped the beer scene of today; how prohibition and World War II molded the era in which Anchor kicked off the rebirth in a scene that in 1915 contained as many as 2,783 breweries but by 1940, had shrunk to 684. It tells the reader of how one Dateline exposé and Big Beer’s involvement nearly killed the movement in the 90s, and it is a tale filled with recognizable names, places, and events like Jim Koch, Michael Jackson, Lew Bryson, Shangy’s, and Victory and those less common but vital to craft beer’s evolution such as Fred Kuh, Jack McAuliffe, HR 1337, and Gablinger’s Diet Beer.
For anyone with a true passion for craft beer, and if you’re reading this magazine, then that certainly includes you, this is a wonderful trip through all the trials and tribulations that brought us to the craft beer era in which we are currently lucky enough to reside.