American Craft: What Beer Can Teach Us About Well-Crafted Laws

By Brian Lemay 6 comments

You wanna know what freedom tastes like? It tastes like this beer. Craft beer has nuance. It’s often times produced in small batches. It’s recipes that sometimes go way back to
even prehistoric times or to the early days of when Scottish immigrants were coming here
to this country. So I think one of the things that sets American
craft beer apart from the rest of the world is our willingness to experiment. New ingredients, new processes aren’t the
sort of things you see with like, traditionalists in other countries. At Atlas we like to take a traditional style
and then tweak it a little bit, kind of throw our own spin on it. So the Brewers Association defines craft
beer as uh, small, independently owned, uh breweries using uh, traditional ingredients. Now on the most basic level, um, craft brewing
is American because our Founding Fathers were brewing beer. George Washington was a brewer. James Madison was a brewer. In fact, George Washington’s farewell speech,
that was actually done at a tavern in New York. Presidents up to President Obama have been
craft brewing. Craft beer is an attempt to do something different. And if you ask me, it’s by far the best beer
you can get. This is America, dammit. Free country, good beer. Beer has really been evolving throughout America’s
history. With the Twenty-first Amendment, one of the
things that was part of the new regulations, federal regulations around alcohol was to
legalize, not homebrew, but rather home wine making. And that’s who had a several decades long
gap before homebrewing became legal again. So by the 1950’s, you got this rapid consolidation
in the brewing industry that leads to just a couple dozen breweries even left in the
country by the 1970’s. Eventually there was a change amongst American
consumers where there was just a greater demand for some diversity. They were sick of the same old taste and they
wanted something new. So they created a little bit of a movement. Kind of the punk rock of brewing. However there was no national market for it,
nor could you sell any of those products here to the marketplace. And by 1978, uh, there was a growing movement
to ask Congress and ask the Senate, ask the president to make homebrewing legal. And so ultimately that demand spurred legislation
repealing the ban on homebrewing. Senator Alan Cranston really did care about
the homebrewing market. He championed the Amendment 3534, and that
effectively was an amendment that legalized homebrewing. So it’s a really watershed moment in American
history in 1978 when Carter signs this law into effect. Is he the father of craft beer? No. But he certainly, by signing this law, he
enabled a lot of really good things to come out of it. The legalization of homebrew has allowed more
people to start doing it. More people have found a passion for it and
therefore, more people have decided to make it a business. The explosion of the craft industry started
with Carter’s legislation which allowed homebrewers to go home and just start experimenting. But eventually, state by state, states too
decided to loosen their regulations. And this was like fireworks. The first states to legalize brewpubs were
all on the West Coast. So it started off in Washington State in 1982,
shortly followed thereafter by Oregon and California. And within the next decade or so you see this
big tidal wave of states to add on to this as well. Fast forward that all the way over
2013 where the last two states, Alabama and Mississippi, finally legalized brewpubs. And that really changes the market right there
because it opens up the possibilities to the idea, within a couple years, that small breweries
can start opening up. You’ve got all of these people who are interested
in brewing, but once you legalized home brewing, now people can start experimenting at home. And more than a few of those same people start
thinking, “hmm, I wonder if I can actually do this commercially?” I was working a job that I sorta hated and
I just made the decision that I wanted to quit my job and move into craft beer. I’d been working in doing business consulting
for a couple of years, and then went back to law school and then did a fellowship with
the federal government. I was sorta fed up with my day job and had
been winning some awards for some of my homebrew recipes on the side, so those two things
kind of came together and decided that I was gonna start a brewery up. Because I’ve always had a little entrepreneurial
bug and so that kind of perfect storm of events encouraged me to open Atlas. So one of the great things about brewing,
it is a combination of art and science. So there is um, there is a lot of science
behind what we do. There’s a lot of biology and chemistry. So when we’re coming up with a new recipe
there’s a lot of calculations that we can do to kinda back into the flavor profile that
we’re looking for. I guess the art comes into play with like,
the initial vision. Like, what do I wanna create? So it’s really cool to be able to kinda pour
our heart and soul into creating something and then have people receive that sort of
the same manner that you, with the same level of enthusiasm that we’ve put into it. We’re in what they call the golden age of
American craft brewing. And um, even as beer consumption’s going down
overall, the percentage of craft brewers is going up. It’s incredible. Every day there’s another brewery or brew
pub opening up. I mean almost literally. When we opened the doors, I think there was
maybe about 4,200 breweries across the entire United States, and now there’s north of 6,000. Consumers have largely, this largely been
a bottom-up phenomenon because the consumers have been demanding more freedoms in purchasing
alcoholic beverages. Largely for home consumption, also for going
to bars and whatnot. The government can change laws. And right now we can say that’s a positive
effect. So many people are tasting craft beer. So many people are loving craft beer. So many people are getting involved with craft
beer. The amount of breweries in America keeps going
up. If it weren’t for the legislation being repealed,
allowing some craft brewers to start up, consumers would still be drinking the same old thing,
even though they may not want that. I think it’s hugely important to craft laws
to meet all the competing demands. But it’s also very difficult. Some regulations are obviously gonna be necessary
when you’re working in food and beverage. But I do think when it comes to like, legislation,
people need to think about, you know, the good that beer’s able to do. It’s good for the state. They get the tax revenue. It’s good for the brewery because they
create jobs and it’s also good for the consumers because that’s what they want. This is an amazing industry with amazing people
who care about the product they’re making. People work hard, but they play hard. They’re sincere. I think, considering what we got, the options
of drinking today, we have as Americans, today is probably the best time in human history
to be a drinker. The choices we have right now are unmatched. But now since the craft beer revolution has
been happening, all the experimentation and innovation and processes and flavors really
have brought America to the forefront in the beer world. And so Europeans are now starting to make
American-style beers rather than Americans making European-style beers. It just goes to show that laws can either
restrict things that people want or they can allow these businesses to thrive and employ
people, provide, you know, beneficial products and make people happier overall. There’s no way you can put this genie back
in the bottle. And that’s the way freedom works is that after
it comes out, and after people demand it, it’s really hard to take away. To lift yourself up by the bootstraps by
pursuing a hobby and getting good at it and becoming an entrepreneur. It’s the American dream in a glass.


Andrew Gisler

Jan 1, 2019, 8:01 pm Reply

Awesome video!

Mike Gustafson

Jan 1, 2019, 8:55 pm Reply

? ? ? Yup! ?

Dude Noone

Jan 1, 2019, 11:50 pm Reply

Merica! Government is usually the problem. Liberty freedom and beer for all.

Mailman 9

Jan 1, 2019, 3:46 pm Reply

What a great video! Hope FedSoc keeps this up. Deregulate my beer!


Jan 1, 2019, 2:41 pm Reply

One problem I have with this, why call it well-crafted laws and claim they are good? Why do we need a law on brewing beer? What if law was was just silent?

Tony Snyder

Sep 9, 2019, 3:38 pm Reply

Let me be clear: I gave this video a 'thumbs up' like. But I kinda feel like an opportunity was missed here. I came into the video thinking it was going to talk about the laws that are on the books that are specific to craft brewing. There's almost no discussion about 'the laws' of craft brewing. To the contrary, at the 6:05 marker we get to "chapter 3–well crafted laws" but it only lasted 52 seconds before going into a new chapter. How are the laws well crafted? What makes them well crafted? What do the laws of craft brewing require? This felt more like a trailer for a potential documentary, which I would love, but alas, it's not.

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