Cheers America

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Explore the vibrant world of craft beer  in America

What happens when things get so bad, they just can’t get any worse? They get better. And in the case of beer in the United States, after that things get absolutely incredible. According to the Brewers’ Association, the 50 states got down to 80 functioning breweries by 1983, with 92% of the market held by just six massive beer makers. (To put that into context, those 80 US breweries in 1983 were serving a total population over 226.5 million. In 1873, when the country’s population was only 39 million, America had a much more diverse beer scene, with its former high point of 4131 active breweries.)

Not only were there very few breweries by the 1980s, but the beer they produced was bland and flavorless by international standards. American beer culture appeared dead. But then came homebrewing – which blossomed after it was legalized by the federal government in 1978 – and the first microbreweries and brewpubs. The trickle of new beer producers that started to appear in the ’80s and ’90s became a full-on deluge in the 2000s and onwards. In 2016, the US finally surpassed its 1873-high in terms of total breweries. What’s even better: the brews they’re producing are world leaders in terms of variety, interest – and deliciousness.

BEST BREWERY: BLACK SHIRT BREWING CO.
3719 Walnut St, Denver, Colorado
Brothers Chad and Branden Miller dreamed up Black Shirt Brewing back in 1999, sitting on the porch of their family home in tiny Westcliffe, Colorado, mulling the meaning of life. They had a passion for brewing, especially red ale – to this day that’s all they brew, in homage to their home state (Colorado meaning ‘red colored’ in Spanish). Today, they’re master artisans – BSB’s handcrafted ales take two months to three years to brew, ranging from IPAs to stouts.
Similar care extends to the taproom – black-shirted staff (a nod to counter culture), lopsided stemware (to showcase the beer’s aroma), guitars (their own), and live music (a window into the BSB community). Must try beer: Red Evelyn – a tribute to the brothers’ grandmother.

NEED TO KNOW
How to ask for a beer in local language? A beer, please
How to say cheers? Cheers!
Signature beer style? Double IPA (among many others)
Local bar snack? The three Ps: peanuts, pretzels and potato chips
Do: Plan on adding 15% or more to your bill: bartenders usually depend on tips to make a living

Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet’s Global Beer Tour, © 2017 Lonely Planet 

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