Though your fridge may be full of barrel-aged stouts and your favorite bar likely packs their draft list with palate-crushing IPAs, craft beer is still a tiny slice of the American beer market. According to the Brewers Association, a trade association that works to promote and protect American craft brewers, craft beer made up 12.2% of the market in 2015. While this number grows every year, it’s clear that the Millers and Buds (er, Americas?) of the world continue to dominate—at least for now.
That’s why this week, craft brewers all across the country are collaborating to create “the biggest small beer ever made.” The premise is simple: a hundred small breweries from all fifty states have brewed the same beer, working off of a recipe created for American Craft Beer Week, which runs from May 16-22. It is the first time such a feat has been attempted, as a slew of small breweries unite to create something very big.
Though the recipe may be the same, the resulting beers definitely are not. “One of the things we wanted to show was that even if you brewed at my location versus up at North Country, it’s going to be different thanks to different water, different processes and so on,” explains Meg Evans, head brewer at Homestead’s Rock Bottom. Along with Slippery Rock’s North Country Brewing, Evans is representing Pittsburgh in the push to “make small beer big.” And though the two breweries are just an hour or so apart, the project celebrates the individuality and collaborative spirit that are central to American craft beer.
And that standard-yet-unique brew? It’s an Irish stout, a dry, roasty and somewhat bitter style of dark beer. But the beer itself is perhaps less important than what it symbolizes. In an age when craft breweries are popping up on every corner (there are more than 4,400 in the U.S. today, according to the Brewers Association), the campaign unites geographically disparate drinkers and brewers around a shared pint. “It’s such a weird industry in that all of us are competitors, except that if one of us succeeds, all of us succeed,” says Evans. “We really are a camaraderie-based industry.”
Rock Bottom will tap their special brew on Monday, May 16th and serve it throughout American Craft Beer Week. For more information on the week and the “big small” beer, visit the ACBW website.