Beer has been an important beverage in the United States of America since the days of the Founding Fathers. Even through the prohibition period in America, beer and alcohol alike were both heavily desired. Like any popular nationally-produced product with a rich history, beer can be a source of patriotism and national pride. However, the American brewing industry has changed drastically over time. Well over four thousandbreweries existed in the US in 1873. Two years after Prohibition was repealed, only 750 breweries operated in the US. During the early 1980’s, there were only eighty breweries in the US, and the top six US “macro” breweries controlled over ninety percent of US beer production. All-American lagers, some made with rice and corn, were primarily produced during this time by the largest breweries. But the American craft brewing industry was beginning to produce flavorful and unique craft ales and lagers.
In 2007, there were 1,463 operating breweries, most of them small craft breweries. But while there is a great variety of beer available today, there is an increasing trend for breweries to be purchased by other breweries. Many of these breweries are not American, and beer that was once entirely American is now produced by foreign-owned companies. American breweries may also produce beer that appears to be foreign. There are different factors that may lead one to judge a beer as truly American, so follow the steps below to choose a real American beer.
- Select the beer brand that is of interest. The beer brand is merely the name of the beer that is found on the beer label, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
- Look for mention of a company or brewery and its location on the beer label. The company may be similar to or different than the beer brand, and the location gives a good idea of. Miller Genuine Draft has Miller Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin listed on the label. Budweiser has Anheuser Busch of St. Louis, Missouri listed on the label, and Pabst Blue Ribbon lists Pabst Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
- Research the ownership of the listed company, brewery or brand. Many large and small breweries are owned by companies that are not specifically listed on beer labels. Some domestic breweries that have been in operation since the 1800’s that were entirely owned and operated by Americans are now owned and operated by foreign companies. To research the ownership of a brewery or related company, one can visit the official brewery website, perform an online search, and contact the brewery or related company. It may be useful to contact the corporate office of the brewery if one exists. In some instances, such as with Miller brewing, it may be difficult to accurately determine who the owner or controlling entity actually is. In this case, it is useful to examine the history of the ownership of the brewery and all related breweries before coming to a sure conclusion about the ownership of a brewery.
- Miller was purchased by South African Breweries PLC in 2002, forming SAB Miller.
- Coors and Molson brewing of Canada merged in 2005, forming MolsonCoors.
- In 2007, SAB Miller and MolsonCoors formed a “joint venture”, forming MillerCoors. Pete Coors is the chairman of the joint venture, and executives from SAB Miller and MolsonCoors are also in important management positions.
- Anheuser Busch was purchased by InBev in 2008, forming Anheuser Busch InBev. InBev is based in Belgium. Anheuser Busch InBev has established North American headquarters in the original St. Louis, Missouri Anheuser Busch headquarters.
- The Gambrinus company (not the brewery) of San Antonio, Texas owns Shiner Brewing, Pete’s Wicked Ale, Bridgeport, and Trumer Pils in the US.
- Redhook brewing and Widmer brewing have merged to create a public company that is called the Craft Brewers Alliance. Redhook and Widmer, and therefore the Craft Brewers Alliance, are owned to a large extent by Anheuser Busch InBev.
- D. G. Yuengling and Son, the oldest operating brewery in the US, is still owned by a Yuengling family member. It is located in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
- August Schell Brewing Company, is the second oldest operating brewery in the US and has been in business in New Ulm, Minn. since 1860. It is operated by a descendant of the founder August Schell and produces a large line of beers. They recently began purchased Grain Belt.
- Sierra Nevada Brewing is owned by the American Ken Grossman. He is a co-founder of the brewery.
- Anchor Brewing, which has been in operation since 1896, is owned by the American Fritz Maytag, of the Maytag family that once owned the Maytag appliance company.
- New Belgium Brewing Company is an American employee-owned company.
- Find out what brewery actually brews the beer. The beer label may or may not state the actual brewery that produces the beer. The company that owns a beer brand may not actually brew the beer. One may need to perform an online search or contact the company that owns the brand in order to determine the name of the brewery that actually brews the beer. In many instances, beer that is owned by foreign companies is brewed in America by American breweries.
- Pabst Brewing Company is wholly American, but it is a “virtual brewery” that does not physically brew beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon and many other beer brands that are owned by Pabst are brewed by Miller Brewing in Milwaukee. Pabst Brewing is technically the largest remaining American-owned brewing company.
- Mackeson’s XXX stout is owned by Whitbread of England, but in the US is brewed by the Boston Beer Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Boston Beer Company brews Samuel Adams beer. In this instance, a foreign-owned beer is brewed domestically by a well known American beer company. However, about a third of the beers under the Samuel Adams brand are produced under contract by other domestic breweries.
- Trumer Pils is brewed in Austria as well as in the US, but all Trumer that is available in the US is brewed in the US. The US brewery is US-owned.
- D. G. Yuengling and Son has been brewing Yuengling beer in the US since 1829 and still brew all of their own beer.
- Most American microbreweries and larger craft breweries are brewed by American breweries that are solely American-owned. These breweries include Sierra Nevada Brewing, Anchor Brewing, and New Belgium Brewing Company.
- Some beers are made to look like craft beers that are brewed by individual craft breweries, but are in fact brewed and owned by larger foreign-owned breweries.
- Determine the origin of the grains and hops that the beer is brewed from. There may be no foolproof way determine with certainty the origin of all of the ingredients that are used to make a particular beer, especially since the regions of the US that are ideal for growing hops and barley are near to or border Canada. However, the US is by far the primary grower of North American hops. US-grown barley may also be malted in Canada and then shipped to the US for use in brewing. It may be considered that the US and Canada have a mutual relationship. Taking this into account, the use of American ingredients in general can be evaluated.
- American beers are usually made from domestically-grown as well as Canadian-grown barley and US-grown hops. Rice and corn are often used by the largest domestic breweries to produce light-colored pilsners such as Coors, Miller and Budweiser. The use of such adjunct ingredients is often criticized, but corn and rice have been used for many years to make American beer. They are typically grown in America, and corn has been used to make beer since colonial times.
- Domestic breweries that produce more flavorful ales and lagers tend to use only barley malt, with the exception of wheat beers that are made with barley malt as well as wheat malt. Many such breweries, like the largest domestic breweries, primarily use domestic and Canadian (North American) barley and wheat because it is easier to procure and the farms may even be owned by the breweries (or by the controlling companies). Specialty European and British barley malts, wheat malts, and similar ingredients may be used in small quantities to give American beers desirable characteristics. Domestic beers also tend to be made with domestically-grown hops such as the Cascade variety that impart unique flavor and aroma characteristics to beer.
- Some domestic breweries brew beers that are made entirely (or primarily) from imported grains in order to produce certain styles of beer that cannot be adequately made from domestic grains. Domestic beers may use imported hops to imbue beer with flavor and aroma characteristics that are not provided by domestic hops. As an example, Trumer Pils is made in the US with imported barley and hops, as it is brewed in the same manner as the Austrian Trumer Pils.
- Weigh the facts and make a judgment. American beer can be produced in America by an American company and made with ingredients that are grown in North America. Some of the ingredients may be from Canada, but this is apparently the normal way of things for the American brewing industry. American beer may also be primarily made from imported ingredients. There may be some reason to give preference to beer that is primarily made from domestic ingredients, especially due to the fact that American beer styles were created in part due to the available domestic ingredients. Beer that is brewed in the US by breweries that are owned by foreign companies may be quite American in certain important ways. They may have been established in the US, and breweries such as Miller, Coors, and Anheuser Busch have existed as all-American breweries for over one hundred years. And as long as the beer is brewed in the US, the breweries support American workers and continue to brew important domestic beers. Even beer brands that are brewed in the US but are owned by foreign companies may deserve some merit, as the beer is produced in America and brewed by Americans for Americans