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Hops and Happenings: A brief history of Craft Beer


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Author: Abigail Blythe Batton

Although the froth over craft beer feels like a modern trend, history tells a different story. Craft Beer originated when Fritz Maytag bought the Anchorage Brewing Company in San Francisco. And and yes, he was that Maytag of the appliance fame. But despite the fortune and the trappings that come along with generational wealth, Fritz was considered a man of high character and humility. “The call me Godfather,” Fritz explained to writer Tyler Blomstrom-Moore, in an interview for SanFranPsycho, when asked about his position as the microbrewing founder. But Maytag was uncomfortable with the moniker. “I didn’t like that,” he said explaining that he worked as part of a team. 

But that was some special team. They essentially invented craft beer. Maytag remembered their big grand opening, telling Blomstrom-Moore, “We decided to throw a party to introduce people to our beer.” He said they invited everybody knew and many didn’t. All the fancy town dignitaries, including the mayor, received an invitation. But the night of the party, they discovered their beer had gone sour. Major disaster. Like the laid back brewers they were, they didn’t panic. Maytag said they went to a local buyer who had recently purchased several of their kegs and got them back for the party.

Anchor’s Brewing efforts in the 1960s germinated into the homemade microbrews of the 1970’s. This brewing craze became popular, in part, due to the magic of the American Homebrewers Association founded in 1978. One year after founding the association, they hosted their first annual Homebrewers Association competition and secured 34 entrants. By 2018, they had over 8,000 homemade brew enthusiasts. 

Craft beer brewers breezed through the 80s with little change in their demographic. But when the 1990’s arrived, corporations picked up on the national taste for craft beer. It was then that microbreweries splashed across the United States reaching close to three hundred. Today, over four thousand microbreweries operate in the nation. 

Saint Petersburg, Florida hardily embraced the growing trend when a company called Brewtastic opened up the Gulp Coast, the American version of an English pub crawl. The Gulp Coast organized beer consumption by offering a bespoke beer-tasting tour of 35 of St. Pete’s locally-owned breweries. They’ve divided their territory by region and offer three separate tours with the North, Central and South ports of call. 

The southern package covers St. Pete/Clearwater area and includes breweries such as The Pesky Pelican and Webb’s City Cellar. The craft beer trail is free of charge and easy to do. Simply download their free “passport” and then have it signed at each of the breweries visited. A completed passport may earn the traveler prizes and awards.  The Craft Beer Trail is a great way to learn about some of the over fifty craft breweries in the St. Petersburg area. 

A few tips for a night of frivolity. 

  1. Use an Uber. Within over 100 thousand Uber drivers in Florida, St. Pete/Clearwater have plenty of drivers to transport a Gulp Coast Group.
  2. Remember to order snacks at some of the bars to help balance the alcohol content and absorption rate. A full tummy makes for a happier head in the morning.
  3. Mind the pace. It’s best to have a game plan before any sort of pub crawl. Make the decision to order only one drink per establishment. This will optimize the fun and safety of the night. Pace the budget as well. Expect to pay between $8-15 dollars per pub including tip.
  4. Be selective in fashion choices. It’s not the night for those stilettos or the skirt that pinches in the waist. Wear comfortable shoes that assist with balance and protection. 
  5. Take lots of pictures. Pub Crawls can blur memories as the night marches forward. Document the fun by remembering to take pictures. Try to hold up a beer menu or stand by a sign to later identify each pub.
  6. Finally, don’t send any personal texts or emails during the crawl. Best to save important interactions for the next day, outside the influence of party spirits.

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