Smithsonian Magazine – Charlie Papazian

There’s an excellent article in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine about Charlie Papazian, a craft beer pioneer in the United States. I hadn’t realised that in the early 1970s, it was illegal to home-brew in the United States, probably some legacy from the Prohibition era when a nation feared the consumption of alcohol.

The author of the article, Matthew Shaer, asked Papazian:

“Could you have back in the 1970s have imagined walking into a brewery and ordering a peanut-butter-and-jelly-flavored stout?”

Papazian replied:

“It’s difficult to stress how different things were—at every level”.

Quite right and, incidentally, that stout sounds delicious….

There are two paragraphs in the article which are a reminder of just how far craft beer has come, and I agree with the “largely interchangeable” comment from the author….

“Today, when many states in the nation are home to 100 breweries and some states count six or eight times that number, it seems almost impossible to imagine that beer was a relatively uniform and even uninspired commodity for most of recent American history. Lagers pale in color and low in alcohol were popular as refreshment but did not engender much connoisseurship or olfactory debate. It was the stuff you slugged back after mowing the lawn on a hot day.

In 1949, the year Papazian was born, the market was almost entirely dominated by big corporations that specialized in largely interchangeable German-style beers: Miller, Pabst, Budweiser, Coors. “I grew up in a mid-century culture, where with food, it was cool to be homogeneous,” Papazian recalled. “You turned on the TV, and it was Velveeta cheese, it was frozen dinners, it was white bread. Wonder Bread! Flavor diversity wasn’t really a thing.”

I don’t know anything about Papazian other than what’s written in this article, but it sounds like he has made a fine contribution to craft beer…..