The whole business got away from me about 1998. That year, the number of brewpubs jumped from 20 to 36. It hit 50 in 2005 and now sits at 47. I counted the number of currently operating brewpubs I have visited and settled at 33 -- more than I thought.
But there is little hope of catching up with 15 others planning to open in 2013.
Grand Rapids claims the title of outstate beer capital with seven brewpubs/microbreweries. But Traverse City, with six, is closing in.
In the Traverse City area, where I recently was, North Peak and Mackinaw had the fresh beer scene to themselves for a long while. Then along came Right Brain about 2007, followed by Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula.
The Filling Station opened in the spring off Eighth Street at the south end of Boardman Lake, joined by Brewery Ferment on S. Union Street.
But that's not all. Also opening this year on S. Union was 7 Monks Taproom featuring 46 taps and 60 beers in bottles. There are no fermentation tanks, but 7 Monks is the one place in town that will serve you a Blanche de Bruxelles Belgian wit in a 13.5-ounce tulip glass for $6.50.
Speaking of glassware, I counted 14 different kinds of glasses at 7 Monks. I thought about a post I wrote in the spring decrying the sad state of beer glassware given the outrageous diversity of artisan beer styles these days.
I thought there needed to be three or four different kinds of glasses in addition to the standby pint, but 14?
Think of the U.S. beer renaissance another way. This year, for the first time in 200 years, the number of breweries topped 2,000 with another 1,300 planned.
Americans are the best innovators in the world and beer is no exception. Craft brewers are adding all kinds of fruit and herbal flavors and aging beer in bourbon barrels. Right Brain pours something called Thai Peanut.
That's all well and good but sometimes I just want a reliable Vienna lager, malty and just mildly hopped.
I crack up when I walk into one of these multitaps and, seconds after I have been handed the four-page beer list, am asked which brew I want. C'mon, does the waiter at Leo's Coney Island give me five seconds to declare which of eight omelets I want?
You can justifiably say there is a beer boom in American, but one reflected in the options, not volume. Total beer consumption has been falling or flat for several years, thanks in part to the recession.
The other factor is we're drinking less on the whole but drinking better stuff. I'll drink to that.