Contrary to popular belief, the American independent craft brewing landscape that we currently enjoy actually started quite a long time ago.
For perspective, in 1873 there were 4,131 breweries in the United States with a population of just 42 million. Unfortunately, alcohol prohibition lasted 13 years, from 1920 until 1933, and most of those breweries didn’t survive, which lowered the figure to 1,000. In 2015, we broke the top number of breweries in 1873. Today, we’re at a record-breaking figure of 7,000 breweries in operation.
A handful of these tenacious breweries survived unsurmountable odds with continuous operation. Or, their brands were skillfully resurrected as modern-day breweries. These were the original craft brewers, before the term “craft brewer” was even coined.
Sig Luscher was one of these forerunners who followed his passion to brew a beer that reminded him of his homeland in Switzerland. In the late 1800s, despite having his brewery burned to the ground by rebel troops during the Civil War and needing to rebuild it, Sig brewed a crisp, light pilsner that by all accounts was a huge hit. The brewery operated until Sig’s death in 1891. Fast forward 127 years, and Sig’s great, great, great-grandson Timothy Luscher, alongside Nathan Cryder, reopened the tenth oldest brewery in America and brought Sig’s dream back to life.
Similar to the story of the Sig Luscher Brewery, there are actually several other pioneers of the craft brewing industry who have been around for over a century. Putting this into context, that means they survived the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, and the Great Depression. It is because of these “beer revolutionists” that America developed into a beer-loving nation.
Terre Haute Brewing Company (THBC) is one of those long-standing breweries. It holds the title of Indiana’s oldest brewery, and the second oldest in the country. “Terre Haute Brewing has a rich and interesting heritage in brewing,” said Dave Porter, THBC’s head brewer. “I’m so proud to be a part of the historic lineage and continue Terre Haute Brewing’s legacy into the future.”
Those early brewers succeeded, thanks to their passion and a vision to provide tasty, full-flavored beer with old-world European traditions. They also paved the way for the craft beer landscape we have today. An emerging number of brewing rebels in the 1980s sparked the explosive growth and popularity of craft beer despite formidable foes in the industry. It was their determination to create beer which honored the old world beer styles with integrated new world twists to give it a purely unique American identity.
When the next round is poured, raise a glass for 10 of the oldest, non-mass breweries in the country that either operated continuously, or have been resurrected – several of which are Hillebrand clients:
Yuengling – Pottsville, PA
Terre Haute Brewing – Terre Haute, IN
Minhas Craft Brewery – Monroe, WI
Pabst Brewing – Milwaukee, WI
Stevens Point Brewery – Stevens Point, WI
August Schell Brewing Company – New Ulm, MN
Frankenmuth Brewery – Frankenmuth, MI
Sig Luscher Brewery – Frankfort, KY
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing – Chippewa Falls, WI
The Hillebrand Keg Pros