If you were looking for an excuse to crack open that brewski, here's some good news: today is National Drink Beer Day.
Beer's devoted fanbase has been bubbling up ever since its invention in ancient Egypt. The elixir of water, malt, hops and yeast was even made illegal briefly in the U.S. during Prohibition.
Today, that passion has come to a head in the form of a craft beer boom. According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewer is defined by being small (six million barrels of beer or less), independent and using traditional ingredients in their beer.
The craft beer movement continues to grow at a staggering pace. While overall beer sales dropped slightly, craft beer enjoyed 17.2% growth last year. Despite that upswing, craft beer still only captures 7.8% of the overall beer market, which still leaves plenty of room for industry growth.
New craft breweries are opening up all over the country, seeing a 15% increase in 2013. The Brewers Association says that most Americans now live within 10 miles of a craft brewer, so what better way to celebrate this "holiday" than by visiting your local craft brewery? The beer cannot get any fresher than directly from the taps at a brewery, and it'''s a great way to connect with the people who make your favorite brew. And to top it off, many brewers offer exclusive or small batch beers, which don't make their way into stores or bottles.
"We have seen the craft beer scene exploding in the south," says Justin Hall. He's the owner of Southern Beer Tours, a craft beer touring company based in Atlanta.
"Three years ago there were maybe five breweries in the area, and now there are more than 18," by Hall's reckoning.
Growth in the industry has inspired entrepreneurs like Hall to create business based on craft beer tourism. Hubs like Seattle, San Diego, the Portlands (both Maine and Oregon) and Asheville, North Carolina, are leading the way as craft beer destinations. Cities like Atlanta are quickly following suit.
"Where this can go over the next 20 years is going to be huge as people's palates change and more and more people begin to appreciate craft beer," says Hall.
So whether you are heading around the corner to your local brewery or journeying to one of your favorite beer cities, raise a pint today in support of all things beer.