The Microbrew Revolution

By Betsy Bradford

Beer has experienced a big shift lately. Anyone else notice this? Although I'd been aware of it, I was struck by it anew on a recent trip to Whole Foods. While I was looking over the a la carte beer section, a married couple wandered up. The husband walked away to do something else, leaving his middle-aged wife to pick out the beer for them both. When I was a child, this never would have happened. Beer was nearly exclusively a man’s domain, and if a woman were to drink beer, she would be relegated to one of the "lower classes." A lady could drink wine or cocktails, but beer? Never.

Taking a closer look at my childhood memories of beer, I generally picture beer coming in cans dispensed from silver boxes with the word "Bud" on them. This isn't to say, of course, that Budweiser is gone, but you can't buy it a la carte at the Whole Foods. Instead, you find row upon row of microbrews with lavishly illustrated bottle, bearing such picturesque names as Sleeping Giant, the Alchemist, or Weeping Radish. You see beers with varying levels of hops or ABV, dark beers and light beers, some with hints of fruit or coffee. These aren't the beers of my childhood or college years. They aren't beers to down in your boxers watching the game or for getting drunk on at a frat party. No, these are dressed-up beers you can serve at dinner parties, beers you pair with food like you would a nice wine.

I am not, of course, claiming that microbrews are something new or that they've completely supplanted mainstream beers, but I think microbrews are more on the general consciousness than they were a few years ago. Now, we have beer festivals and beer tastings. A high-end local market in my area offers seasonal beer classes, and a nearby museum presents a program on the science of beer. Far from a marginal activity, beer has become a fashionable and popular pastime. People buy, taste, share, compare, and even home brew. It's ubiquitous, and it's cool.

I'm not entirely sure what’s responsible for this shift. All I know is, I'm not complaining. In college, I couldn't stand the taste of beer, but that's because people kept serving me Blue Light, Keystone, and similarly foul brews. For my money, there's no better way to relax on a Friday night than to crack open a microbrew and enjoy a big plate of barbeque. Is this my grandmother's idea of femininity? Probably not, but as long as I'm not driving anywhere, it's not hurting anyone. My love of microbrews is a relatively recent discovery, but I'm glad that I've found it. I never knew that beer could be so good. So, to my readers who are over 21, don't be afraid to get out there and explore the world of microbrews, even if you thought you didn't like beer. You might be surprised.