From Rob Fink. Email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
Since its popularization, craft beer has been and continues to be a phenomenon which eludes precise definition. In the broadest sense, it’s a simple categorization of style; meaning a full-flavored beer utilizing both traditional brewing methods and ingredients for its production.
The Brewers Association, the largest trade group in the country representing brewers, craft or otherwise, also defines a “craft” brewery as one which produces no more than 6,000,000 barrels of beer, or around 186,000,000 million gallons. Interestingly, total beer production (including Anheuser Busch-InBev as well as SABMiller, the world’s largest “breweries” respectively) in the United States in 2010 hovered around 200 million barrels. Conversely, craft beer only accounted for about 5% of that total amount, or roughly 10 million barrels.
Although its definition may vary, craft beer has an ethos which cultivates a sharp sense of community involvement. For example, spent grain used in the brewing process typically becomes feed for local farmers. Beer itself has become an integral component of other agricultural products, as is the case with Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, Vermont which sometimes sends its wort (unfermented beer) to Jasper Hill Farms (also in Greensboro) in order to wash their cheeses. Between different breweries releasing collaboration beers to breweries that use 100% solar power (as is the case with these folks) the possibilities truly are endless, but why is craft beer important to Borderstan?
Not only can you get a great beer in Borderstan, at places like Saint-Ex or at the wonderful worn-in Stoney’s on P Street NW you can also experience places which pride themselves on the inextricable relationship between the two. Beguiling combinations abound at establishments such as Birch and Barley in Logan Circle and Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle.
Each establishment routinely hosts dinners based on anything from a certain style to a certain brewery paired with menus tailored to specific beers. Additionally, the ubiquitous presence of a brewmaster or brewery representative at these dinners reflects an adherence to the cultivation of community which pulsates throughout the entire craft beer world.
No matter how you feel about craft beer generally, you’ll do yourself a service by visiting any of the aforementioned spots. Go to a beer dinner at Birch and Barley or a meet and greet with a brewmaster at Pizzeria Paradiso or simply sit down with something like a Bell’s Two Hearted at Stoney’s – you’ll be glad you did.