NEW YORK, N.Y. - Craft beer continues to gain traction around the country with a 15 percent increase in sales over last year's numbers, according to a July report by the Brewers Association.
The Brewers Association represents almost 70 percent of the brewing industry, or more than 1,400 small and independent breweries across the U.S.
"This movement is happening now because our entire culture is moving toward more flavor," said Garrett Oliver, brewmaster for Brooklyn Brewery, in an interview with ABC News. "I don't want to sit on the couch and drink something that has no flavor to it. It is like it is no fun. It is better to have two beers that taste great then to have six beers that don't taste like anything, and I think people have finally come to realize that."
Today, craft beer is taken as seriously as fine wine. Jim Koch, a sixth-generation brewmaster and the founder of the Boston Beer Co., knows that better than anyone. The Boston Beer Co. is the home of Samuel Adams, the largest craft beer maker in the country.
"Beer can give you everything that you can get in a great wine or a great Scotch or a great bourbon," Koch said. "Beer deserves to be considered at that level, and that's what craft brewers are doing. We are bringing respect to beer."
There is a lot at stake because beer is obviously big business – a $100 billion industry across the board, with more than 6 trillion gallons sold each year. And though the big companies stand by their products, they've also been swift to cash in on the craft beer craze: launching their own craft lines and buying up smaller breweries.
Belgian-owned Anheuser-Busch has long been a Goliath in the world of beer. With help from their brands such as Budweiser, the self-proclaimed "King of Beers," the company owns 47 percent of the American market.
Anheuser-Busch said it was not only embracing the craft beer renaissance but helping it.
"In this instance, Goliath is helping the industry," Chibe said. "We provide that source of distribution, that pathway to get their products on the shelves efficiently. We help provide sources of raw materials or ingredients that are the finest because of the specifications. ... And honestly ... a lot of what they're doing is bringing excitement and helping fuel this renaissance."
Critics have railed at Anheuser-Busch and others for not putting their names on the labels of the craft beers they sell. Anheuser-Busch says it doesn’t need to – the information is out there.
Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver said "of course" the big beer companies are going to copy the microbrewery model because they can see that craft brews "excite" people. The way for microbreweries to make their presence known in the crowded beer market, he said, is to get creative.
"We just have to be more interesting and better than they are, and I think we're doing alright," he said. "At the end of the day, craft brewers are the ones who are creating this excitement, and if people start with copycat beers from the big brewers, well, they're going to soon graduate and discover the real thing, so it all works out."
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