a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Credit the spoiled kids for better beer

The beer library at the new Bocktown Beer and Grill in Monaca, Pa., is testimony to America's expanding taste buds.

By Scott Beveridge

Theoretically speaking I credit the refined taste buds of a new generation of spoiled consumers for the craft beer market boom in the United States.

This is a group of younger elites that grew up with potato chips in myriad flavors ranging from ketchup or dill pepper to sweet onion or cracked sea salt and ground pepper.

In my youth during the 1960s chip flavors were limited to plain, barbecue or sour cream and onion at grocery stores.

Meanwhile, America’s Industrial Age turned out steelworkers and other factory workers then who patronized the products of local breweries for no other reason than union workers produced their beer. Here in the Mon Valley, Pa., Iron City once enjoyed brisk sales in the bars outside the mill gates even though it tasted terrible.

Today’s young adults don’t seem to understand this fierce loyalty to brand. They prefer beer with flavor, whether it’s infused with pumpkin spice, chocolate and raspberry or coffee, over those sissy ultra lights or recognizable name-brand drafts typically poured at the smoky local joints where their grandparents once bellied up the bar. This I have been told in random polls of my younger colleagues in the newspaper business.

As for the older crowd, many of whom have been paying the college loans of these finicky beer snobs, it, too, has been gravitating toward this exciting new beer market.

Graying hipsters, like myself, are discovering unusual new beers brewed with cloves, flowers, hard cider or cucumbers.

Maybe this trend also is happening because of the "buy local" movement, which has been fueled by consumer concerns about where food is produced, and big corporations hurting small companies while draining the energy supply.

Or maybe it’s because the youngsters are onto something.

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