My weekend is coming to an end, which is always sad, but welcome at the same time. I’m ready to start week two and get this ball rolling. I did the usual weekend stuff, like laundry and running, but I did do a little “getting out” as well.
I checked out a local brewery, called Crooked Letter Brewing. I love small breweries, and love that other states are starting to explore the world of craft brews. Austin is ripe with craft brewers and it’s a lot of fun. Every bar you go to has different beers. Craft brewers aren’t afraid to try something different so you’re apt to find something unique in Austin. This isn’t always the case when traveling to other towns. You walk into a nice restaurant of theirs with a “great” beer selection, only to find a handful of your biggest beer manufacturers available. No craft brews at all. I love trying out an area’s local brews. You never know the flavors you’ll discover. A lot of small breweries will take local flavors, like freshly grown vanilla, or local coffee, and infuse it into their brew. It’s great if you can associate a town/city with some of the beers you tried and loved. What a great reason to go back, right?
Mississippi is just at the birth of the craft brewery and I really hope it takes off. One here, Mississippi Brewing Company, which I haven’t checked out yet, is considered a nano-brewery, which means they make one barrel at a time (a barrel is 31 gallons), and usually max out at a handful per year. The brewery I visited, Crooked Letter Brewing, makes between 15,000 and 20,000 barrels a year, which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t. To give you an idea, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, Michelob, Stella Artois) made 161 million barrels in 2006 (by the way, Anheuser-Busch isn’t even an American beer company any more. They were bought out by In-Bev, a Belgian company – so much for your great American beer…but I digress).
I love talking to the brewers, which are usually the business owners, accountants, and cleaners of breweries as well. The owner of Crooked Letter, you could tell, loved his job. He loved making beer, he loved talking about it, he loved nerding out over the science of brewing beer and all the chemical reactions that occur to make the perfect brew. That’s when you know you’ll get quality. These giant beer companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, unfortunately only think about money. I’m sure when they were a small company starting out, they made a great beer, and only had a few varieties. Now, they make garbage that people drink because it’s cheap (you can’t tell me you drink Natural Ice for it’s wonderful palette of flavors).
Craft brewing is great because it brings business and art and creativity to the area, without just bringing starving artists. Craft brewers usually come in the creative variety because they’ve had to create their life from the ground up. They’ve had to think of a label that sticks out, a flavor that is their own, and marketing that will lure the A-B die-hards to try something a little different.
I hope the best for the brewers here in Mississippi, and hope that if I return years later, the industry will have taken off for them. Craft brewing isn’t just about beer, it’s about re-inventing and reminding people about the wonderful world of buying local and doing something with pride and care.