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Denehy talks microbreweries at Rotary

VALLEY — Mike Denehy, co-owner of the Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse in West Point, talked about the explosive growth of craft breweries at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. According to Denehy, there was a total of 32 breweries in the U.S. in the 1980s. In the early 2000s, the number had grown to around 60.

What is it today? More than 6,300!

The vast majority of these are microbreweries. Much smaller than the large-scale corporate breweries, a micro, or craft, brewery tends to be independently owned and characterized by an emphasis on quality, flavor and brewing technique.

Millennials are fueling much of this explosion. “They want things that are locally made,” Denehy said. “For millennials, everything is hyper localized. Even if they get off a plane they will ask for something that’s locally made.”

Denehy added that the Prohibition era had a major impact on Americans’ taste for beer. Alcohol was outlawed in the U.S. from 1919 to 1933. When it became legal again, a handful of major breweries swept in and dominated the market. “They all made the same kind of beer,” he said. “It was yellow, fizzy and without much taste.”

In the post-Prohibition era, beer was looked at like any other c0mmodity. Treating beer like corn, wheat and crude oil, what mattered was quantity. With the major producers all coming out with similar kinds of products, variety was kept under wraps.

“Now, we’re going back to the future,” Denehy said.

People are more open to different kinds of beer. “I have a beer that tastes like coffee,” Denehy said. “We have them that taste like raspberries and bananas.”

“There are lots of different styles and flavors of beer,” Denehy added. “We have been forced to grow up in what we do. The old beer culture is dying. People are waking up and realizing that dark beer is good.”

Denehy said that one recent study determined that Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s largest brewer, was losing as much as two million barrels in beer sales in a year’s time to microbreweries.

Chattabrewchee’s top sellers are Crow Hop, an east coast Indian pale ale that’s bursting with fruit flavors before, during and after the drink, and Berry Wizen, which has some raspberry added to a traditional Heffe-Weizen lending a subtle berry taste.

Things have gone well thus far for the Southern Brewhouse. It has played host to all kinds of events ranging from birthday parties to bachelor parties and Christmas season get togethers. They don’t sell food on site, but you can bring your own and they will send runners to pick up orders at nearby restaurants such as Johnny’s Pizza, Pokey’s, Coach’s and Joe’s Tex Mex (when it opens).

When it comes to take-home beer, Chattabrewchee has something different from the traditional six pack. It’s a four pack. It’s a similar amount of beer, but it’s in four cans. Each can is 16 ounces rather than the usual 12 ounces.

Brewers both large and small are concerned about the possibility of a tariff on imported steel and aluminum. If this goes into effect, it will almost certainly raise prices, due to the aluminum cans costing more.

Denehy said that it takes about three weeks to make beer. The brewing part of the process takes about eight hours. It will then need a couple of weeks to ferment. Four ingredients are needed to make beer: water, grain, yeast and hops. The yeast is a type of bacteria that infects sugar, producing two byproducts: alcohol and carbon dioxide.

A high-quality beer such as Guinness uses the same ingredients as a very common type such as Bud Light, the difference being that Bud Light uses much less of everything.

The Chattahoochee Southern Brewhouse has been on tap at local restaurants. The tap is recognizable by a squiggly blue river logo. “We have 12 beers on tap at our brewery,” Denehy said.

In addition to Crow Hop and Berry Wizen, other popular types include Backwater Bl0nde and Ale 706.