Iconoclast businesses in California have reshaped the consumer goods market, taking cues from the social movements of the 1960s. An antithesis to the corporate macrobreweries at first, the brewing industry in California grew into a mosaic of unconventional and innovative businesses that appealed to consumers seeking distinction in their beer. Their contribution to the state economy is significant; employing over 45,000 directly and indirectly, as of 2012. Their social contribution, however, is not easily quantifiable. To illustrate the effects on beer in America, it is important to understand environment the industry developed within, as well as concurrent businesses of the era. The seeds for emphatic change in the culinary, coffee, and computing world took place in California as the brewing industry went through the first stages of change. At the outset, these humble beginnings brought a sense of authenticity and closer connections between the producer and consumer. By advertising as ‘authentic’ products, breweries claim to be part of an oppositional sentiment that defies both mass-consumption and mass-production, creating what researchers of craft beer have called, a “synergistic relationship between culture and commerce” that affirms ideals of local production, unconventionality, and traditional forms of production. As the industries grow to national prominence, they strive to maintain their ‘authentic’ credibility, the strong human connection that allows a non-mainstream business model based around a diverse and customized product family to survive. Economies of scale worked in their favor as well, smaller brewers never attempted to capture the consumer base that macrobrewers held so strongly; only a small percentage of consumers were needed to allow the now thousands of breweries to emerge throughout the nation. Furthermore, craft brewing has a greater social impact beyond the simple act of drinking a beer. Consuming these products is an act with political undertones; if producers claim a product is fair and ethically produced; this transmutes to the consumers dollars into a statement of support for the countercultural ideology to alternative production and consumption.
Eric Ortega, “The Golden State of Brewing; California’s Economic and Cultural Influence in the American Brewing Industry” (Master’s thesis, California State University, Fullerton, 2015), 78-79.