Craft Brewing Revolution: Dawning of the Age of Aquarius


Aquarius, the bringer of water, and sign of the times

For the last 50,000 years, our ancestors have watched the night sky, attempting to discern secrets encoded in the movement of the stars. Against a backdrop of diamonds, projections of animistic and mythical creatures were imprinted on the confusion of the night sky and passed down through the ages as the constellations that are still recognized today. Twelve of these, roughly located around the celestial equator, are known today as the twelve signs, or houses, of the zodiac. Were one to find him- or herself in a high forgotten place with a clear view of the horizon on some anciently agreed-upon day, such as the vernal (spring) equinox, and were they to wake before dawn to mark the spot where the rising sun first breaks a new day across the land, and if they were to repeat this ritual year after year, encoding the results in lore, carvings, monuments and architecture so as to pass them on through epochs of time, a great secret truth about our world would eventually be revealed. This truth, known in modern times as precession, is the simple fact that, as our planet rocks and rolls around the sun, a slight imperfection in its rotation causes the point at which the sun would rise on a certain day to slowly move, or precess, against the static background of stars.

The result is that the sun appears to rise in the house of a particular zodiacal sign for a period of roughly 2,150 years, before drifting onto the next constellation. In 10,000 BCE, this was the house of Leo (as marked by the alignment of the sphinx in Egypt). Around the times that the Old Testament of the Christian Bible was written, the sun rose in the house of Aries, the ram. All indications are that 2012 stands somewhere late in the transition period between the age of Pisces, the fish, and the coming age of Aquarius, the bringer of water. According to many, along with this shift, there will be obvious signs that the times, as they say, are a changin’.

It is no wonder then, that according to the American Brewers Association the number of operating craft breweries in the United States topped 2000 in April of this year. While this may not seem like many, the increase is meteoric when one considers that the numbers have grown from one hundred in 1988, to five hundred two years later in 1996, to 1,500 in 1999, followed by a dip and then back to 1,500 operating breweries in 2008. Going even farther back in time to 1983, a mere 51 brewing concerns operated a total of 80 breweries in the U.S., the low mark for the 20th century. The top six breweries at that time (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Heileman, Stroh’s, Coors, and Pabst) controlled 92% of U.S. beer production. Certainly, this represents the “Bad old days” for domestic production when viewed in light of the cornucopia of beer from a myriad of breweries available today.

And it is not just brewers that have appeared as messengers for the “bringer of water”.  In the past decade, the craft distilling movement has finally shaken the shackles of unfair taxation that had hobbled the industry since Prohibition and is well on its way to becoming a thriving component of this new age economy (see MG #190).

Also heeding the call, the micro-roasted coffee movement has exploded in recent years, with nary a small mountain town of any character finding itself devoid of highly caffeinated wizards creating black magic from fire and funny green beans of the third world.

Finally, whether you partake or not, it is hard to ignore the effect that medical marijuana legal reform has had not only on the quality and variety of the weed itself, but also the diversity of THC-infused products on the market. A quick survey of any local independent newspaper will inundate the reader with advertisements for sodas, lollipops, tootsie rolls, cheesecakes, bubble baths, hand lotion, soap, ice tea, brownies and ice cream, just to name a few. With medical marijuana now legalized in eleven of thirteen Western states, (all of them, save for the conservative bastions of Utah and Idaho), and with decriminalization efforts underway in Colorado and California for the coming election, it is fair to say that for those in need, a time of relief has come.

Erich Hennig grew up in Minnestrohta and once served as a recruiter for the PB Army. His column, Mountain Beer Notes, appears monthly in MG. You can reach him at