Even though beer has been a beloved beverage for the majority of civilization, likely having been used during the Neolithic Period 9,000 years ago and certainly in ancient Mesopotamia 6,000 years ago, it has been going through somewhat of a revolution during the past decade. This is particularly true in the United States, where craft breweries are popping up in immense amounts, with 3,418 operating at some point in 2014. In fact, the amount of total breweries that functioned in the country throughout that year is at the highest total since the 1880s. With this industry being so large and growing so rapidly, it is ideal that these breweries conform to certain standardized practices and make use of additional resources that can enhance their product and its production.
The Brewers Association defines craft breweries by a few unique characteristics that separate them from corporate breweries. Specifically, they are small, producing no more than 6 million barrels or less, and independent, so less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. In addition, these breweries have the majority of their total produced alcohol volume in beers, not flavored malt beverages. However, these qualities are not officially used to define craft breweries, and there can be some ambiguity in their understanding. This vagueness in a definition is prevalent even in the name of the industry, since certain breweries have been known in the past as microbrews or even nanobrews. Today, the term craft brewery seems to encompass all of these terms, including brewpubs, or bars that produce their own beer on site. In general, these breweries tend to focus on creating innovative beverages, making use of past styles and altering their taste. The Brewers Association has compiled beer style guidelines that cover these. Many craft breweries are also notable for their interest in environmental sustainability, such as Magic Hat Brewery recycling its waste into usable methane with the help of PurposeEnergy.
There are immense economic benefits that derive from the presence of an expanding craft beer industry in the United States. In 2014, the craft beer market was valued at $19.6 billion, an increase of 22 percent from the previous year, which generates many taxes both locally and federally. This is also very beneficial for farmers, because the average craft beer uses between three and seven times as much malt per barrel as a mass-market (macrobrew) lager, leading farmers in some states to grow more barley and hops. Small-scale breweries also provide different jobs locally, such as occupations involving the production and distribution of their product. Standards are prevalent in all phases of brewing operations, from preventive maintenance, and workplace safety, to material handling, conveyors and forklifts. Building Standards, including building codes for housing the brewery, are also important for the establishment and management of craft breweries.
Locally, there is also the benefit of what the brewery provides to the community. Many different craft breweries provide assistance for local events or make philanthropic efforts to give a portion of their profits to charity. For example, all of the profits for the IPA Second Helping by Sweetwater Brewery will benefit a charity called The Giving Kitchen, which helps people in the food industry who are going through hard times. The emergence of craft breweries in an area also has been responsible for a phenomenon in which urban revival follows not too soon thereafter. A great example of this occurred in the now-trendy Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, a place that possesses a cultural and economic landscape that was jumpstarted by the establishment of the Brooklyn Brewery there in 1996. Unfortunately, the drastic rise in rent will likely cause this brewery to relocate in ten years, but its economic boom will still last.
One of the reasons that we know there was beer in Ancient Mesopotamia is from the goddess of beer in the Sumerian pantheon, Ninkasi, who was praised through the form of a holy beer recipe in the Hymn to Ninkasi. This level of admiration and worship for this beverage is something that has not subsided, and has been seen in massive amounts with craft beer. Craft brewers strive to provide their customers with a level of quality that allows them to feel a connection not unlike that of the Mesopotamians to their drinks. Because of this, it is ideal for brewers to possess ISO 9001:2015 – Quality Management Systems – Requirements, which can ensure that their products are up to the standards of their customers. In addition, as participants in the agricultural industry and being part of a modern culture that encourages environmental health, ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management Systems - Requirements with Guidance for Use can be useful as well.