Koto Brewing Co.

Head brewer Pierre Tusow adjusts the settings on the boil kettle at Koto Brewing Co. in Twin Falls on April 30.

In the early 1970s, low calorie, light lager beers were driving the growth and nature of the American beer industry.

At that time, home brewing was the only way beer enthusiasts could sample a wide array of flavors since imported beer started disappearing from shelves, replaced by mostly light lagers.

“Highly effective marketing campaigns had changed America’s beer preference to light-adjunct lager,” according to the Brewers Association, a national organization that unites, promotes and protects small and independent U.S. breweries.

According to Idaho Statute 23-1001, “beer” is defined as “any beverage obtained by the alcoholic fermentation of an infusion or decoction of barley, malt and/or other ingredients in drinkable water.”

The diminished brewing landscape in America gave rise to a grassroots homebrewing industry, which became the impetus of the “craft brew industry” as we now know it.

The New Albion Brewery in Sonoma, California, opened its doors in 1976, which sparked what has been called a renaissance in homebrewing. Although it closed within six years, a multitude of home brewers launched businesses in its wake. The 1980s is the decade known as the pioneering era of microbreweries, but many industry experts did not recognize their importance.

In 1978, Charlie Papazian and Charlie Matzen formed the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, in conjunction with the publication of the first issue of Zymurgy magazine. Five years later, the Association of Brewers emerged. This organization included the American Homebrewers Association and the Institute for Brewing and Fermentation Studies in cooperation with the emerging microbrewery movement across the nation.

“Until the early eighties the popular image of beer in America was simply that of a mass-produced commodity with little or no character, tradition or culture,” the Brewers Association website says. But the quality and flavor began to improve with these new pioneers, who laid the groundwork for future beer makers.

In the early to mid-1990s, momentum increased and by the mid-2000s, the trend had become a movement in America.

In 2005, the Brewers Association became a recognized conglomerate.

Now the land of the free is home to the most diverse brewing culture in the world, according to the Brewers Association. Innovation has marked the revolution and the movement shows no sign of slowing down.

“Many states have created more brewery-friendly and beer-friendly laws, which allow breweries to create and sell their product to beer lovers,” said Jess Baker, editor-in-chief of CraftBeer.com. “U.S. craft brewers are incredibly innovative, putting new spins on Old World beer styles, and exciting beer lovers with an endless choice of flavors," she continued. 

Since 2017, craft beer has been branded with the Independent Craft Brewer Seal to identify craft beer made in the U.S. and to celebrate its independent spirit. The upside-down beer bottle labeled certified independent craft is meant to unify craft breweries and their supporters across the nation, according to the Brewers Association.

Since the seal’s inception, more than 3,000 brewing companies have joined in on the collective branding.

The trend is spreading fast.

In 2018, the Brewers Association recorded 7,450 operational U.S. breweries, including regional craft breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs.

In the same year, 90,498 barrels of craft beer were produced in Idaho, generating $366 million, according to Brewers Association data. And that number is steadily increasing as more breweries pop up around the state.