1965 – present
Big Beer vs. funky microbrews
Possible flavor profile
In the mid-1800s, German, Austrian and Czech immigrants built an enormous lager industry in northern and midwestern U.S. cities such as Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
Tech innovations — such as mechanical refrigeration, the mercury thermometer, and the hydrometer, which measured alcohol content — helped them standardize their products. New railroads let them transport around the country. In the mid-1900s, the metal can became a de facto symbol of Big Beer.
Then came a microbrew rebellion that was started by a Maytag and propelled by Jimmy Carter.
Fritz Maytag, from the washing machine family, bought and rejuvenated a struggling historic San Francisco brewery in 1965 and profitably produced Anchor Steam — a crossover between lager and ale — and other old-style beers.
Theresa McCulla, curator of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, said that by revitalizing historic styles using traditional techniques and authentic ingredients, Maytag “showed a model of what a new generation of American beer could look like.”
For a while, not a lot of others built on that model.
Soon, hobbyists-turned-entrepreneurs opened start-up microbreweries, including two on the coasts that would grow into early craft powerhouses: Sierra Nevada in the west and Sam Adams in the east.
“Once those two blew up, everybody East and West coast just started jumping in line, and everybody wanted to do it,” French said. As of 2022, there were 9,709 U.S. breweries.
In July, Anchor Brewing closed, but Maytag’s spirit and tradition lives on with every oddly flavored, bizarrely named quaff in neighborhood brewpubs across the country.
Drinking vesselUntil recently, cans symbolized Big Beer, and craft brewers rarely used them.
Question 10 of 10