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Home brewing has moved on from the days of buying a ton of plastic and a “bitter” beer kit from Boots and making a generic brew. *There are many home brewers now who are using top quality fresh hops, their own cultured yeasts and maltings to create very good distinctive beers. *When I had guests for dinner a few weekends ago I purchased 7-8 good ales from a supermarket and one of the guests presented a couple of bottles of one of his family members home brew. *The home-made beer was superior to all the bottles I had purchased with a nice hoppiness balanced with lightness of taste and a lovely colour.
We, the British, love our beer and if somebody told us, the Belgians or the Germans we couldn’t brew our own beer for personal consumption without having a £650 license, there would be petitions, people contacting the media and all manner of fuss from the home brewing community which supports a good number of specialist shops and online retailers. *However until the 1st of July, in America there were still states which made it illegal to brew your own beer without it being commercially licensed.
Home brewing was naturally banned in 1919 when the Prohibition laws came into force in the USA, banning the sale or production of alcoholic beverages. *At this time, there was a very healthy brewing scene with many small breweries being operated by German or other European immigrants who produced a wide range of the beer varieties from their mother country. *In 1978, 59 years later, the House of Senate (in UK terms, think an elected House of Lords with constituency representation) passed a law making it legal to brew your own beer again at the national level, but it was left to the individual states to implement the law at state level. *Over the years, states have enacted the law at local level one by one and as of the start of this year, there were only 2 states still banning the practice 34 years after senate passed the act.
The southern areas of Alabama and Mississippi were the hold outs, but in the last month, both states have passed laws and signed them into the legislature books now making it legal to make your own beer. *Compare these two states to others you may expect to be against this act and you see the Mormon state of Utah beat them to it by 4 years.
When you think of American beer, its reputation until relatively recently has been of producing bland fizzy lager on massive scales, but the craft brew scene in America is incredibly healthy, some would argue on a par with the UK scene on a pro rata basis. *In the late 1970’s, the Brewers Association (a rough comparison would be possibly be a Society of Independent Brewers / CAMRA hybrid in the UK) counted 8 craft breweries, by 1994 there were 537, and currently the number stands at around 1500 according to their figures. *That is a massive increase, and although they only have 500 more craft breweries for a population which is 5 times larger, the UK certainly didn’t start on such an unhealthily low number. **To make this growth even more amazing, the first craft brewery post prohibition in the USA was only formed in 1976, the now defunct New Albion Brewing Company from California, so the industry has literally grown from nothing to a significant part of the beer market there and around the world
The increases in commercial craft brewers since this time and the gradual relaxing of home brewing laws across the US states over the same period is surely no coincidence. *All brewers start by messing about at home and then scaling up to a point they make enough money to cover their living costs doing the hobby they love. *This takes a few years and explains the lag between freedom to brew and the opportunity in life to sell their beer. *Names like Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer and Goose Island (who were taken over recent by InBev, but started as a craft set up) are now commonplace in our supermarkets and more specialist bars.
The US craft scene has also influenced the UK producers. The craft brewers in the United States were well known for the hoppy beers they produced and this is a style that a lot of the craft producers in the UK have at least a couple of examples of in their catalogue, if not more. **This just proves that beer, whatever you try to do, will survive. it has for millenniums and will probably do so until the end of mankind (or hops and barley, whichever comes first). Enjoy!