I'm writing a short article for Draft Magazine (based, actually, on a post I did here) about the explosion of new breweries starting up across the country. For the article, I tracked down breweries in the process of opening in three remote places--North Dakota, Alabama, and Texas.* All three projects are fascinating for different reasons. Avondale Brewing in Birmingham is simultaneously working with an architect to build their tasting room while a bill goes through the Alabama legislature to make such a practice legal. Edwinton Brewing is trying to bring beer to the great far north--in Bismarck.
But here's the really fascinating thing: every one of them is planning to do Belgian beers. They may do other styles, too, but they're leading with Belgians, and it's clear the reason they want to brew is because of Belgians. I just spoke to the owner of Avondale this afternoon and I was certain he was going to list a standard line-up of British-American ales. Nope. In fact, the brewer is planning to make a saison from a yeast strain he's taken from a red wine--and muscled into beer-fermentation. (This is, purportedly, the same place Dupont got their famous yeast.)
I think it's what happens when you've had good beer in a country for 35 years. The first breweries had to make it up as they went. The second wave of breweries, 15-20 years later, started with a more sophisticated sense of beer and brewing. The third wave, just getting underway, have been exposed to good beer long enough that selling Belgian beer on the high plains or deep South doesn't seem insane. It's just what you do.
Ever more reason to think that all these new breweries aren't just derivative opportunists, but the extension of a market that still has a way to grow.
*True, Texas is not remote nor new to brewing. But it is massively under-represented on a per-capita basis. In fact, when I mentioned it to Scott Hovey, who's busy founding Adelbert's Brewery near Austin, he instantly said, "We're ranked 47th in terms of per capita breweries." It was in his business plan--smart guy.