A lot of people came together to try a lot of beer this past fall in Denver, Colorado. The Great American Beer Festival welcomed more than 60,000 people, all looking to sample beers from around the world.
The event's attendance is just one example of the growing popularity of craft beer – beer made by small independent operations/brewers. In 2018, domestic sales reached a record $27.6 billion, representing 24% of the American beer market.
And according to the Brewers Association, there are 7,450 craft brewers in the United States alone, like Fargo Brewing in North Dakota, Bells in Michigan, and Shipyard in Maine.
Marcus Doucet threw his hat into the crowded ring two years ago when he opened Backyard Brewery in Manchester, New Hampshire. There are seven craft breweries in that city alone.
"Sunday Morning" producer Sara Kugel asked Doucet, "There are so many craft breweries out there. Weren't you intimidated to start your own?"
"Opening it was getting scary," he said. "That was nerve-wracking."
"One thing about the craft beer community that's incredible is that it's not so much a competition," he said. "If we're all creating unique but different styles, but at a quality level, we're sharing the same customers."
And for the most part, they're sharing the same key ingredients.
"Essentially beer is made of four ingredients – it's gonna be water, it's gonna be malt, it's gonna be hops and it's gonna be yeast," Doucet said. "So, you take those four things and you change one of 'em, and the beer essentially is different."
But creating something unique often requires experimentation. Paul St. Onge is the head brewmaster responsible for finding ways for their brand to make a splash in the larger world of beer. Sometimes he adds tea, other times special hops or fruit.
He explained how he went about making an English mild ale: "Malty, Old English beer – we're infusing it with Earl Grey tea," he said.
Kugel asked Doucet, "How do you create something that tastes unique? I would think all the flavors have been covered by now."
"I mean, yeah, you can say that. But it comes down to sort of the quality of it, the quality of your craftsmanship," Doucet replied. "I mean, essentially two people could create the same beer, the same IPA, but a few different variations or variables can really change that, you know?"
Backyard Brewery is still a small operation. But Marcus Doucet definitely sees the glass half-full.
"It kinda comes down to what you're able to offer," he said. "If you're able to offer consistently delicious, high-quality beers, you're gonna create an in for yourself. You're gonna be able to stand out."
For more info:
- Backyard Brewery, Manchester, New Hampshire
- Great American Beer Festival, Denver
- Brewers Association
Story produced by Sara Kugel and Roman Feeser.