Artikel i Top Beer: Craft Beer on the Rise – US vs Sweden, are We on the Same Path?

Tidigare i höstas fick jag förfrågan om att börja skriva lite i öltidningen Top Beer, en gratistidning som finns på ölkrogar lite här och där. Ett erbjudande jag såklart tackade ja till varpå ett par artiklar kom att författas under hösten. Första tidningen sedan dess och därmed också min första artikel går att finna i det numret som är ute nu. Men alla kan inte få fatt på tidningen och vad jag vet så går den inte att beställa på annan väg, därför har jag helt enkelt klippt in artikeln här nedan (i en lite mer redigerad form). Det bör påpekas att smärre faktafel kan finnas, varpå ni gärna får påpeka dem så kan jag ändra i åtminstone nedan text. Alla siffror är dock tagna och redovisade officiella siffror. Jag bör väl i sedvanlig ordning också påpeka att det är mina personliga åsikter och mer av mina egna tankar än sanningar, vilket ni kanske ser i min bedömning av hur utvecklingen ibland har sett ut runtom i Europa. Det är med andra ord inga sanningar skrivna i sten utan min analys av vissa siffror och hur man kan välja att se dem, djupare studier och granskning av siffrorna lär sannolikt ge andra resultat, liksom att ha en varierande befolkningsökning etc. som bas.

 

Craft Beer on the Rise – US vs Sweden, are We on the Same Path?

When looking at the rising interest in beer across the world the number one country
which comes to mind for the most of us is likely to be the great country to the west,
America. Why is that? Probably because the growing US craft beer scene
has been both loud and daring with many of the new small breweries focusing on
beers that would never see the bottom of a beer drinker’s glass or be successful at all five or ten years ago.

BA-125_Brewery_CountSeen to the numbers published by the Brewers Association over the total amount of US breweries, there are somewhere
around 2,126 different breweries (of these about 40 are large scale or in other
ways not considered as “craft beer” breweries, based on B.A’s criteria) with a couple
of hundred more being established within the next 6 months. For a country with a
population of 313,847,465 (est. July 2012) these numbers wouldn’t be as impressing if
it wouldn’t be for their history. 32 years ago, in 1980, there were 89 registered
American breweries, a decrease of 614 breweries compared to the 793 existing
registered breweries the years after the prohibition era ended. That equals 64 new
breweries a year between 1980-2012. Roughly counted, with the current population as
a constant for every year that would count for 1 new brewery per 5 million citizens a
year, not as impressive when compared to the Swedish growth.

22089_585912238101943_2029974409_nSweden I say. A small country with a similar history of a traditional beer and drinking
culture, which just like its American counterpart was dissolved for a long time during
the Swedish prohibition. Would it be possible to somehow compare the Swedish
and American craft beer movements, seen to the amount and development of its
breweries? Why not? It won’t be a significantly strong comparison, lacking both in
potential variables as well as execution – but hopefully it will shed some light on the
status of the international beer scene.

According to numbers from Sveriges Bryggerier and Euromonitor
2012 Sweden had a total of 554 breweries in 1890, a number which steadily decreased
by about 50 breweries per 20 year period. In 1911 there were 200 Swedish breweries,
in 1935 about 150 and in 1975 it was down to 108 breweries. When analyzing both the American and Swedish figures one should keep in mind that they do not
account for mergers. As an example Carlsberg Sverige AB, today one company and
“one brewery” is the result of several mergers where the most notable one occurred
in 1964 when Pripp & Lyckholm and AB Stockholms Bryggerier (both themselves
the result of mergers of around 40 different breweries) merged to become
Pripp Bryggerierna AB (Pripps AB).

Maybe I can dare to say that the old
drinking culture, at least in Sweden, consisted of breweries that were supplying the
local “pilsnerstugorna”, small establishments where the workers went after a hard
days work to down a couple of probably not too tasty lagers. In the US with their
large immigrant population the variety of styles might lure one to think that people in
Sweden were drinking light lagers while they in the US had a flourishing beer culture.
Once again one should keep in mind the difference in population, infrastructure, city
sizes etc and how effective marketing made mass produced lagers the beer of choice. Thus I
believe it to be fair to say that the average Joe in both countries were drinking lagers –
despite the existence of more beer styles.

With pioneers like Fritz Maytag who took over Anchor Brewing Company in 1965,
and the establishment of breweries such as New Albion gave spark to what led to the craft
beer movement of the 70’s and 80’s. In Sweden the change would come later and not until the
mid 90’s before the brew scene really started to change. In 1995- 1997 breweries such as
Oppigårds Bryggeri
(yes, they didnt start brewing until 2003, but these dates are from when they were founded), Jämtlands Bryggeri, Nils Oscars Bryggeri
(by then called Kungsholmens Kvartersbryggeri), Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri and Gamla Slottskällan
Bryggeri were founded and came to set the standard for craft beer in
Sweden for the years to come.

Most likely the timing for when the impact of the craft beer revolution
hit a certain country  (early 70-80s or the mid-90s) as well as how helped
shape the current state of craft beer in that country. If we look past the US there
are not that many countries that have had such a long time to develop the craft
beer community as Sweden. Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and even Britain
are only recently starting to adapt to the new modern beer industry with different and more demands
from the beer drinkers. History and tradition still means a lot, most certainly so
in Britain and Belgium – two traditionally strong beer countries. Today, newcomers
tries to incorporate “the new” with the old and when and if successful this is when
magic can happen.

There are some minor conclusions I’d like to make from this short description
of the developing beer scenes in the US and Sweden.

First, that despite the Swedish population we have come a long way; within the last twenty years
we have been growing a beer community that keeps on growing faster and faster for every day.
The same is true for the US, which has had almost thirty years to re-establish their beer scene,
change legislation etc. Sweden should be proud of what we have and be patient. With an increasing interest there is an increasing demand. New breweries pop up and hopefully legislation will eventually
change for the better for us who like beer. The quality might not always be the
best among the newsest breweries, but so much is happening that we might have to bear with
some minor setbacks and give some of the new breweries and brewers time to find their own
way and how to improve their quality. The current beer community looks different from before
with flying brewers and several other new actors on the market. We must not necessarily like it,
but they are here to stay and I bet that in another 10 years we will look back to today as the time when
the second modernization of the industry took place, and Sweden was among the
first to participate.

Secondly, it is not unfair to compare the Swedish to the American beer
scene. Tthey are growing at the same relative pace and the only major difference
I can come up with here and now is that there is a lot more money and volume
in the US. Let us be proud of what we have, we are a small country – still with a lot to offer.
In this short article I have only compared some random figures for the US and Sweden,
but lets compare with more countries and I’m sure that we would see Sweden in the
top-5 of several of the variables. The US is undoubtly the epicenter of the craft beer modernization
but a lot is happening in countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, worthy of keeping an eye on.
So next time someone brings up the US craft beer revolution, be proud of the one
that is happening in Sweden, which is not much different.

Magnus "Manker" Björnstjerna

Grundare och skribent på MankerBeer.com. Från ett fokus på allt vad USA har att erbjuda och med en kärlek till gedigen amerikansk mat, bra bourbon och framförallt all landets fantastiska öl har Manker nu börjat förstå storheten i belgisk öl.

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2 Responses to “Artikel i Top Beer: Craft Beer on the Rise – US vs Sweden, are We on the Same Path?”

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  1. […] känner till lite av utvecklingen av svenska bryggerier, om inte annat så har vi skrivit om utvecklingen av svenska ölmarknaden i förhållande till den amerikanska. Vi vet hur de svenska pionjärerna stakade ut ett grundläggande intresse för öl runtom i landet […]

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