Getting To The Bottom of the Glass

By Christy Gualtieri

When you think of the phrase “craft beer,” what image comes to mind? A frosty glass sitting proudly on a polished-wood bar, the light shining through it just-so, making it irresistible? A skinny hipster with a well-oiled mustache holding a pint glass in one hand and a corncob pipe in the other? Or a long-lost American art form making a delicious comeback?

Whatever it is to you, it’s certainly a phenomenon.  Craft beer is more than just a drink – it’s become an experience; similar to sommeliers standing around sniffing, swirling, and judging a glass of wine, so too do beer tasters gather to taste, discover, and savor the flavors of craft beers.

The revival of beer in America, according to a timeline from craftbeer.com, began after Prohibition ended in the United States.  Prohibition had killed off hundreds of breweries, and hundreds more were closed between the 1930s and the 1980s due to commercialization and beer monopolies.  In the past few decades, however, homebrewers, looking for a way to create the beers they could no longer buy on the market, capitalized on the curiosity and desire of others to find something outside the box, and began their own breweries (often called “microbreweries”), thus beginning what many would call the “resurrection of beer.”

The craft beer industry has grown exponentially in recent times.  According to the Brewers Association, there was a 17% rate of growth in breweries between 2015-2016 alone, with over 5,200 craft breweries in the market.  The greater Pittsburgh area, where we are located, is home to over thirty craft breweries, and offers beer lovers an annual ten-day festival in celebration of craft beer.

But let’s take a look at the psychology begin the phenomenon: what in particular has been drawing so many people to craft beer? Here are some possibilities:

  1. It’s still a niche market.  Craft beer, although exploding in popularity, is still not the most popular option.  It needs to be sought out – and learned out, as well.  Craft beers – and the process it takes to create them – is not something that is easily commodified, and people can be drawn to the process it takes to create it.  There is still an exoticness that exists around craft beer that can draw folks in.

  2. It’s a sensory experience.  Much like wine or even coffee tastings, craft beer can offer drinkers a chance to discover the many flavor profiles, food pairings, and aromas that come with it.  There are thousands to choose from, which could send any craft beer enthusiast on a long mission to discover them all!

  3. It connects knowledge to knowledge.  Writer Russell Edwards, who wrote on the subject of the psychological connection to craft beers, explained that there are many opportunities to connect craft beer to history.  A brewery might showcase a particular beer that was popular during an earlier time, for example, bringing knowledge of that time period and the history of the beer together, which might peak someone’s interest!

  4. It’s honestly just great fun! For hundreds of years, people have communed together to share stories, community, and quality time with friends over beer.  Gathering with a microwbrew or craft beer in hand is another fun way to continue the tradition!

Until next time,
Christy

Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health.