The social movements of the 1960s that espoused multicultural values and new norms of behavior led to consumer movements in the 1970s. California was the social testing lab for a culinary revolution that would reverberate throughout the nation. While isolated territories such as a Chinatown or Little Italy in major population centers generally house ethnic foods, widespread acceptance of varying culinary heritages had not existed for mainstream Americans. California led the way in a new understanding of gastronomy in America. Former chef and culinary researcher Joyce Goldstein refers to the phenomenon of food as ‘California cuisine.’ Where Chinese, Italian, or French food heritage developed over centuries and in many different locations, California cuisine was the synthesis of various cultures in a way that was both innovative and traditional. Joyce argues that California cuisine developed in the restaurant industry of the state, supported by the diverse ethnic populace, well-traveled and educated restaurateurs, and the fertile soils of the farmlands.
Fritz Maytag understands the timing of Anchor’s renewed success and the food Renaissance in California, he comments in an interview;
I would argue that, in America, we have not just political freedom and religious freedom and economic freedom, we have cultural freedom. In Italy they eat Italian food, in America we eat any food we want.
The food revolution in California and the advent of a unique cuisine within the state would take multiple forms and lead to many new features of American gastronomy. Before the 1960s, one would be hard-pressed to find farm fresh vegetables, extra virgin olive oils, cuts of Italian cured meats, pungent French cheeses, or fresh herbs and spices at their local supermarket. The same is true of Stouts, Porters, India Pale Ales, Barleywines, and Saisons. The entrepreneurial spirit of those countercultural culinary icons who opened their own French of Italian restaurant in California is not unlike those who comprised the early craft brewing pioneers. Open minded restaurateurs and brewers, with a sense of adventure and desire to create something that is lacking in society, acted as the antithesis to a simplistic consumerism that seeks bland flavor and instant gratification. Ironically, the state that gave the world McDonalds, the iconic prototype of multi-national fast-food corporations, also supports numerous examples of the opposite business model. Though it may also be fitting; for the yin and yang of consumption patterns do constitute the whole. While one Californian can indulge in Confit de Canard atop a fresh spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette from an haute cuisine establishment, another can order one of the 247 billion hamburgers proudly served by McDonalds. The same holds true in the brewing industry. One could enjoy a bottle of Liberty Ale from the original 530 cases released by Anchor in 1975, or a can of Miller Lite, which sold 70 million cases in 1976.
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), 88-90.