Beer Here – By Dan O’Brien

My passion for great beer began abroad in Austria, where I studied, lived and worked as an educator and later as a manufacturer’s representative during the early 1990’s. I still fondly recall drinking my first liter of the local Kaiser Märzen shortly after my arrival in Vienna. This was a life-changing experience and my first real taste of truly “fresh” beer. A subsequent trip to the nearby Kaiser brewery opened my mind (and my mouth) to the world of brewing. My thirsty quest for great beer was born. When I’d fly back to the states for a visit, I always brought along a second duffle bag stuffed full with as many 500ml Kaiser beers as I could manage to carry.

After several years in Europe, I returned to my home state of Michigan along with my last bootlegged shipment of Austrian beer. The timing could not have been more perfect. All over my hometown, and the state for that matter, it seemed there were breweries and brew-pubs opening up everywhere. This was the re-birth of the micro-beer movement in Michigan (and the rest of the country) which had all but died with Prohibition. I was particularly relieved to have other consumable options available to me knowing that my stash of Euro-beer was would not last long. It was a good time to be a beer drinker. And it was during this time that I began exploring what was to become known as “craft beer.”

That was twenty years ago. Now I’m married with two kids and living in New Jersey. And after sundry and valuable career paths and lots of delicious beer along the way, I have somehow successfully paired my passion for great beer with a career in the craft beer business, working as a sales representative at Hunterdon.

Craft beer has come of age. Now, back in Michigan there are over 300 breweries and brewpubs in operation throughout the state. Not to mention numerous craft distilleries, cideries, meaderies and wineries. I don’t mention this to merely boast on behalf of the Wolverine State. I see the same trend that I witnessed nearly two decades ago in the Midwest afoot here in New Jersey today. Craft beer is everywhere and selling like crazy in a ‘down’ economy. You might think this trend to be counter-intuitive? Perhaps. But it just goes to show that people want better beer and better value when they buy their beer. Craft beer offers that to them.

Around the state craft breweries and brew pubs are popping up slowly, but surely. There may be as many as eight new establishments in the works for 2012 alone. And, as I write this article, legislation is being proposed that would ease production restrictions on local brewpubs and breweries as well as making it easier to open and operate craft breweries throughout the Garden State. All of these trends bode well for the beer industry in New Jersey, whether you find yourself working in retail, distribution or at a brewery. It means more jobs, more sales and more economic growth for the future of New Jersey, just as it has in Michigan. Sometimes I still wish I lived in Europe, but not because I miss the beer.





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