The History of The Craft

Pouring a Craft Beer

For this first post, we decided it’s best to start at the beginning. What I mean is the start of craft beer. You see, the first use of the term “Craft Beer” is credited to Vince Cottone, a beer columnist, in 1984. Before this point, the term “craft brewing” hadn’t been used in a publication. At the time, however, most people knew what Vince Cottone meant when he referred to craft beer because craft brewing wasn’t a new thing to them, it had just found it’s new name.

The Definition of Craft Beer

To say where “craft beer” starts is a difficult thing to judge without a proper definition of craft beer. Some consider Jim Koch to have been the first to popularize it in the 80s, but most people also consider Fritz Maytag the father of the IPA back in 1965. Going further back, during prohibition, all illegally made beer was brewed in a microbrewery style to avoid detection from authorities (though the quality of this beer was also quite low). Even our founding fathers enjoyed microbrewing. The following is George Washington’s personal beer recipe:

“To Make Small Beer

Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. — Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask — leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working — Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

The art of craft beer might be considered to predate the founding of America even under some definitions. After all, if we loosely define craft beer as being brewed at the microbrewery scale, we can argue that the first beers ever brewed were craft beers. Patron Saint of Beer, Brewers, and hop pickers, Arnold of Metz, was born 580 AD and earned his title for saving people from the plague by encouraging they stop drinking water, and instead, drink beer. Before this, the Sumerians (the very first human civilization, back in 1800 BC) had a goddess of beer, Ninkasi. Before the Sumerians, we know very little, because they DID invent written language as well, meaning the art of brewing (and by some definitions, craft brewing) could very well predate human civilization and written language.

With all considered, however, you define craft beer, it has been around for quite a while; and with any luck, it will be for a long time. So next time you take part in this time-honored tradition, be sure to remember the great beers and brewers that came before us to perfect the craft in the course of our ~ 4,000-year-old (possibly older) tradition.

To learn more about beer check out our site.