Craft beer is big business right now. Craft brewed beer is now 11% of the United States beer market with 22.2 million barrels of handcrafted barley goodness coming from small and independent breweries.
But in all the talk of farmer’s markets, community gardens and farm stands, breweries tend to get overlooked as a part of the local food movement. They shouldn’t be. Craft breweries foster local economic development by creating jobs and manufacturing a food product that gets exported to other locations, bringing sales dollars back home.
Here in Huntsville, Alabama, we have 8 local breweries operating within the Huntsville metro area. (As of today.) That’s an astonishing number considering 5 years ago beer over 6% ABV was illegal in this state, and just 2 years ago home brewing became legal. These legal changes were largely due to the ongoing efforts of the grassroots group Free the Hops.
The local brew scene brings about $650,000 per year (and growing) in economic development. We now even have a specialty beer store and taproom to cater to beer aficionados and craft brewing has driven the redevelopment of an old middle school on a blighted section of Governor’s Drive.
That all means Huntsville is developing a reputation: a reputation for being a hotbed of craft beer. That kind of reputation brings beer lovers to town to visit and prompts other visitors to get out of their hotel rooms to sample the local food and nightlife, benefiting locally owned food trucks and restaurants and other nearby businesses.
Craft beer in Huntsville is a local food success story: one that we should celebrate and support.