Beer is one of the oldest and most consumed beverages in the world. People have been brewing beer for 5,000 years, and many today argue it was the first fundamental ingredient to the creation of habitable society—even before bread. Millennia later, we’re still finding new ways to innovate civilization’s first beverage.
The microbrewery boom, which began around 2008, is still very much in effect a decade later, with almost 5,000 breweries in the United States alone. In Seattle, for example, there’s a craft brewery on nearly every block, with a total of around 200 breweries within the city limits at any given time. In the rush to stand out from a growing field of competitors, craft brewers have put their pedals to the imaginative metal.
New technologies: Recently, microbreweries have pushed to be more environmentally friendly and reduce waste through technologies like carbon capturing. The idea is to reduce CO2 emissions, cut brewing costs and recycle the otherwise wasted carbon for other aspects of brewing. This, say some experts, could save brewers tens of thousands of dollars per year—a meaningful sum for a mom and pop shop.
New yeasts: For beer nerds, this may be the most exciting innovation yet. Yeast is a living organism that’s hard to tame, yet necessary for fermentation. But while yeast is an essential piece of the brewing process, craft beermakers have fixated on hops while in search of new flavors. Now, yeast is on their minds in a big way—both developing it in laboratories and finding new variations in the wild to test on new brews.
The big companies are learning: After nearly two decades of watching new and innovative microbreweries pop up, companies like Heineken and Budweiser have not only begun copying their techniques, they’ve swooped in and bought popular companies like Seattle’s Elysian Brewing to glean their secrets and find out new ways to get into your fridge with local flare and exotic IPA flavors.
Canning: As microbreweries continue to establish themselves, more and more of your favorite local suds are winding up in cans for sale in stores. Want a cutting-edge Bodhizafa from Georgetown Brewing or a Lush IPA from Fremont Brewing? Now they’re at your local corner store next to the Miller Lite.
Home brewing appliances: Over the past five years, Seattle’s PicoBrew has created a modern, use-at-home beer-brewing appliance the size of a microwave. Using handmade Pico Pak ingredient kits, specified by breweries or by your own recipe, aspiring brewmasters can take the product home and brew any beer they want right at their kitchen table.
And, of course, cannabis: Beer companies like Corona are investing in pot farms with the hope that cannabis-infused beer is the future of consumption. The idea, once the science is perfected and appropriate laws are passed, is to create a brew that’s beloved by beer drinkers and THC enthusiasts alike.