Micro-brewing up a storm by Lawrence A. Armour @FortuneMagazine April 22, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons Steve Hindy says craft brewers are restoring beer to its rightful place as a local business and a product that says something about its hometown and region. FORTUNE — The Craft Beer Revolution is a great read, thanks in part to the fact that author Steve Hindy put in time as a correspondent for the Associated Press and served as an editor at Newsday. Hindy is also co-founder, chairman, and president of Brooklyn Brewery, which means he not only knows how to write but also was in the trenches when the craft beer revolution was just beginning. He knows the business from the inside out, and the book — subtitled “How a band of microbrewers is transforming the world’s favorite drink” — takes us through the industry’s evolution in an informed, entertaining way. In a foreword that sets the tone, John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado, points out that the U.S. brewing industry, which consisted of fewer than 40 members in the mid-1970s, is now more 2,700 companies strong and growing, spurred by the emergence of innovative craft brewers. The pioneers, he tells us, introduced Americans to amber ales, lagers, porters, and stouts, which were followed by Belgian-style beers and then by totally new styles and processes. The result: “European brewers are now looking to their American counterparts for inspiration.” MORE: Is this tiny gadget the future of smoking? Why Gov. Hickenlooper? Why not? A geologist who was laid off during the oil industry collapse in the 1980s, Hickenlooper bounced back by starting Wynkoop Brewing Co., Colorado’s first brewpub, in a dilapidated warehouse in downtown Denver in 1987. The brewpub and restaurant have played an important role in the revitalization and gentrification of the downtown community, a rags-to-riches story that was capped in 1996 when Coors Field was built around the corner from the brewery. Brewers like Wynkoop, says Hindy, are restoring beer to its rightful place as a local business and a product that says something about its hometown and region. “The craft brewers are taking beer back from the mass-producing multinational brewers who make beer the way Kraft makes cheese or Hershey makes chocolate.” At its heart, he adds, craft brewing is a movement launched by a band of Davids determined to bring down the industry Goliaths. The book takes us through that journey, starting with the pioneers who did their thing in the 1965 to 1984 years. It moves on to the first generation of microbrewers who fueled the boom and bust of the 1984-1994 era, focusing on the class members of ’88, who played a key role in turning craft beer into a respected segment of the industry. It winds up in the current generation, and we are delighted to learn that the CEOs of many of today’s microbreweries and craft beer companies occupy seats at the Beer Institute table along side the heads of Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Molson Coors, Heineken, Corona and the other big players. Fritz Maytag, the first of the pioneers, visited the Anchor Brewing Co. in 1965, on the weekend before it was scheduled to close shop. “I fell in love,” he says. “I had no idea I would buy the brewery when I went. But before the day was out, we had a done a deal.” Eleven years later Ken Grossman, bored with life in a bicycle shop in Chico, California, started a home-brewing company that sold equipment and ingredients. “Getting into the brewing business sounded like an exciting career.” Grossman’s family thought he was nuts, but it worked out. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which shipped an estimated 1 million barrels last year, is now the second-largest (behind Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams) member of the craft beer industry. Per-capita beer consumption in the U.S. has actually trended down over the last 20 years, but you’d never know it from the craft beer makers. According to the Brewers Association, craft beer producers rang up sales of $14.3 billion last year, a 20% increase over $11.9 billion in 2012, with companies in all parts of the country racking up gains. MORE: Vegan cuisine aims for the mainstream Allagash Brewing Co., located in Portland, Maine, is one of my favorites, partly because my granddaughter, Jenna, who took a course in brewing at the University of Vermont, turned me on to Allagash White. The company’s takeoff on a traditional Belgian wheat beer, Allagash White is “brewed with a generous portion of wheat and spiced with coriander and Curacao orange peel,” a combination, we’re told, that gives it a fruity, refreshing taste. Although 80% of company sales come from Allagash White, the other 20% come from sour beers; beers brewed with cabernet franc, chardonnay grapes, and red currants; and beers aged in oak, whisky, and rum barrels. “We do a ton of one-offs,” says founder Rob Tod, adding what is clearly the key to the industry’s success: “Innovation is a big part of our business culture. It keeps things interesting for our customers and our employees.” Hindy’s book contains profiles of dozens of the industry’s leading innovators. He has nice things to say about Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and editor of the encyclopedic Oxford Companion To Beer . And he does a nice job doing what he set out to do — telling us, in an easy-to-take way, how “breweries across America got your favorite artisanal suds into your mug at your local pub, and how these craft brewers developed a community that sparked a worldwide revolution.” Lawrence A. Armour is editor of Time Inc.’s Content Marketing & Strategies division.