The Last 10 Years in Beer
Last week, a new year was born. And a new decade! Before we look ahead at what beers may come, let’s flip back through a timeline of the 2000s’ weirdest beer-related news.
2000: Ah, the opener of the aughts — that’s my new name for this past decade, mainly because I want to say things like “back in aught-seven, we didn’t need robot butlers to brew our beer for us!” to my grandchildren. Anyway, 2000 had some huge beer news, from the sale and demolition of King and Barnes to the revival of Samichlaus after a four-year absence. But Dutch researchers at Delft University of Technology unearthed the year’s most earth-shaking news by overcoming a major scientific hurdle: They discovered a way to serve beer (on tap, no less) in outer space. I’m disappointed that the beer refused to produce foam in zero gravity — but at least we know we can bring it with us when we flee earth in the space cruiser from Wall-E.
2001: Craft beer sales continued to rise. The Institute for Brewing Studies reported a jump from 1.9% in 1999 to 4.3% in 2000. Good news for lovers of good beer.
2002: In February 2002, Sam Adams Utopias hit the market. This ale — which is meant to be savored like a fine brandy — set the world record for strongest commercial beer at 27% ABV. Boston Beer Co.’s boldness (coupled with their popularity) opened the door for other extreme beers, such as Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA (a hop monster at 120 IBUs and 20% ABV) and Brewdog’s recent Tactical Nuclear Penguin, an imperial stout that breaks the record at 32% ABV (although some argue that Brewdog’s freeze distillation method disqualifies the Penguin).
2003: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg caused a kerfuffle in summer ‘03 when he suggested that drinking wine in public is acceptable, but drinking beer is not. It all started on July 4, when police broke up a group of beer-drinking fund raisers. A few days later, thousands sipped wine in Central park during a New York Philharmonic concert without seeing a single siren or citation. Bloomberg was among the wine drinkers.
2004: I turned 21, passing a major milestone in my then-unknown goal to become a beer connoisseur. Also, a Canadian bear got drunk.
2005: To celebrate July 4, Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch published his Beer Drinkers’ Bill of Rights, which stirred up a head of controversy among drinkers and brewers alike. You can learn more about one “amendment” in particular by revisiting my cans versus bottles article.
2006: A cache of beer was found in the vaults at Worthington’s White Shield brewery in Burton-on-Trent. These dusty brews defied conventional knowledge by tasting great. One beer in particular — the 137-year-old Ratcliff Ale — awed beer expert Mark Dorber with its apparent freshness and “meaty character like smoked partridge with hints of molasses.” This discovery suggests that vintage beers, like wine, should be taken seriously. Perhaps someone should ship a bottle of Ratcliff to Bloomberg.
2007: Japanese brewery Abashiri Beer created “bilk,” a beer brewed with … milk. Next.
2008: InBev, a Belgian/South American brewing conglomerate, acquired Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion, creating Anheuser-Busch InBev. Your letters to the makers of Budweiser, that ubiquitous American lager, can now be sent to Leuven, Belgium. But that’s not all: Later in ‘08, this newborn bev-biz hydra displayed typical corporate obliviousness to irony when it spewed forth the Budweiser American Ale. Despite this new competition, craft breweries’ share of the market continued growing.
2009: Beer(ein)stein the Web blog was born! And, with a little help from readers, my drunken adventures will stumble into another new decade before you can say, “I sthink I’ll haf anoth’r pint!”