In its eighth year, American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), May 13-19, has taken the tag line “Big Week, Small Breweries” to celebrate the continued growth of a movement that now includes more than 2,360 small and independent U.S. brewing companies — the highest total since the 1880s.
ACBW is sponsored by the Colorado-based Brewers Association (BA), a not-for-profit trade association that represents craft brewery members in everything from legislation to litigation, while organizing big events such as the World Beer Cup, the Great American Beer Festival and the Craft Brewers Conference.
New for 2013, the ACBW Coast to Coast Toast will unite craft beer lovers in all 50 states, who will simultaneously raise their glasses at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 16.
Even if you think the toast is a tad hokie, it certainly symbolizes how far craft beer has come in the past decade, penetrating mainstream culture, and bringing new breweries to communities where beer hadn’t been brewed since before prohibition.
In 2012, the BA reported 409 brewery openings, including 310 microbreweries and 99 brewpubs. Around Atlanta, the number of microbreweries and brewpubs has more than tripled in past few years, with more in the building or planning stages.
Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co. ranks No. 24 on the BA list of the Top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies, based on 2012 beer sales volume. Louisiana’s Abita, the only other Southeastern craft brewery on the list, ranks No. 14.
Of course, some would argue that the top three U.S. craft brewing companies, as tabulated by the BA — Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing Co. — are getting too big to be considered craft breweries.
But in 2012, even as craft beer sales reached record levels, that only accounted for just over six percent of the total U.S. beer market, the top three included.
On May 16, I’ll raise a glass to all the good beer behind those facts and figures. And I plan to visit as many of Atlanta’s craft breweries, brewpubs, beer bars and beer-aware restaurants as I can during American Craft Beer Week.
So far, I know the Brick Store, 5 Seasons, Leon’s, Midway Pub and the Porter plan to present ACBW beer and food specials, beer dinners, tap takeovers and other events.
More ACBW info here: www.craftbeer.com
— Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog.