It’s my senior year and my friend and I are living off campus in a small, old house on Potter Street. The floors are wobbly, the wallpaper is busy, outdated and peeling in places, and some of our bedrooms are clearly retrofitted living rooms and studies. My bed, for instance, takes the place of an old baby grand, and when I fall asleep at night, my feet should be resting on a piano bench.

Many of these realizations make me smile, but none so much as the inheritance of an washing machine. It’s an old Maytag washing machine, old enough that it tap-dances while it washes. However, the reason it caught my eye actually has nothing to do with washing machines, with clothes, cleaning, or any of that: it has to do with beer—a good story about beer.

Here’s the long and short of it: back in the sixties, Fritz Maytag, heir to the Maytag washing machine fortune, was persuaded by a friend to visit the old Anchor Brewery in San Francisco, California is one of the remaining craft breweries, because it was on the brink of shutting down. It couldn’t compete in a market dominated by macro-brewed adjunct lagers (the Miller Lites of the time). 

Fritz’s friend knew Fritz (who loved a good beer, one with—you know—flavor) would fall in love with the charm of the place and offer to buy it. He was right. 

The revamping of the Anchor Brewery and Fritz Maytag’s love and investment in the idea of local, micro-brewed, craft beer began what today is known at the craft beer revolution (for more on Maytag as a craft beer pioneer and the story of Anchor, check out Steve Hindy’s terrific book “The Craft Beer Revolution”).

I love craft beer, and now I love my washing machine. I look forward to a day in the United States when I don’t have to qualify beer with the word “craft,” where quality isn’t the marked case. I love beer because it is like my old house on Potter Street: with its age comes heritage and stories; a diversity of looks, feels, and quirks; something that brings joy to people. 

Sadly, when referencing beer, that description sometimes comes as a surprise to Americans; here, many of us conflate the word “beer” with boring, uniformly tasting mass-marketed light beer. Historically, America hasn’t done beer right.

Remember Prohibition? Right, not good for breweries, as you can imagine. When Prohibition caused the majority of small-scale local breweries to close, the few to survive became the sole providers and influencers of the American palate, and business people that they were, created a cheap product that catered to the lowest common denominator among the beer drinking population. 

As college students we’re all familiar with it: the flavorless, fizzy yellow stuff, so ubiquitous that it predisposed the average American palate to tasteless, watery lagers for decades to come.  Craft beers didn’t exist much, and when they did, people weren’t used to their taste and didn’t buy them.

But there is good news. While microbrews are still fighting an uphill battle, we Americans are finally coming around. The Fritz Maytags of the world slowly but surely revived a culture of good tasting artisanal beer. 

Now, the craft beer industry is growing at an alarming rate. The amount of craft breweries doubled in the last two years, now reaching over three thousand and with more in the pipeline. People are beginning to appreciate beer as something with more flavor and integrity than the Silver Bullets of the world might suggest.

People are now cooking with beer, pairing food with beer, cellaring beer, and discussing beer with the respect and dignity historically accorded to wines and distilled alcohols. 
Frankly, it deserves it: as an alcoholic beverage, beer is friendly and democratic, offering itself as a variety of tasty flavors and styles, and remaining relatively cheap, (a world-class beer can cost $6 a pint; what do you think world-class wine costs?)

Best of all, a lot of this is happening here in Maine. Hopefully at some point you’ve helped yourself to an Allagash, made by one of the more reputed Belgian breweries in the States. And Allagash, located in our neighboring Portland, is only one of the great places to get local beer close to campus. 

I’m not a beer expert—I’ve have not drank nearly enough—and you can tell my mom that. But what I hope to do is take you along for the ride as I drink my way through the craft, art, and history of brewing, with an emphasis on the local and craft beer around us. I will draw from my own experience drinking beer, as well as many books, articles, and news on the topic. 

I hope to put a spotlight on an underdog industry fighting to reintroduce America to the world’s favorite beverage, and to celebrate what has always been at the core of beer making: innovation, history and taste.

Of course, taste is subjective, and you’re entitled to your own opinion, but it’s my hope that with enough imbibing, you’ll be able to trust me enough to accept a recommendation here and there. After all, it’s a beer—how bad could it be?