Craft beer trend good sign for local business

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A century ago, brewing beer was a largely local affair.

In the late 1800s, Anheuser-Busch and other companies had planted the seeds for national distribution with pasteurization, refrigerated rail cars and innovative advertising and marketing.

But in the early 1900s, there were still thousands of local breweries across the country, including the Fesenmeier Brewing Co. in Huntington. Many of the smaller local brewers survived after prohibition, and Fesenmeier was still producing 15 million bottles and cans of beer a year in the 1950s.

Eventually, the mass marketing and worldwide distribution of the big companies took their toll on most local breweries, and Fesenmeier shut down for good in 1971. America had become enamored with reliable, national brands that looked and tasted the same from coast to coast.

But in one of marketing’s most interesting reversals, the biggest news in the beer business today is the “craft beer” movement. After laws were eased in 1970s to allow home brewing for personal consumption, “brew pubs” began to pop up in the 1980s and 1990s, and smaller brewers such as Samuel Adams were able to build regional and national distribution.

Today, there are more than 2,700 brewing companies in the United States, including more than 100 in Ohio and Kentucky and about a dozen in West Virginia.

Some of the best of those local efforts will be on display this summer with the second Rails and Ales Festival that is planned for Saturday, Aug. 16, at Heritage Station in downtown Huntington…

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