America has its Johnny Appleseed, who crossed the country planting apple trees. Canada has Frank Appleton, who did just about the same thing with craft brew-eries, beginning in the 1980s.
Appleton, a B.C.-based brewing consultant and author of the 2016 memoir Brewing
Revolution: Pioneering the Craft-Beer Movement, traded a quality-control position with O’Keefe for homesteading in the Kootenays in the early 1970s. When pub proprietor John Mitchell happened across a story he had written for Harrowsmith magazine about home brewing, they col-laborated to open Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay Brewery.
When it opened in 1982, it was almost the only North American craft brewery in existence. The beer-drinking public, growing bored with the ubiquitous Canadian lager, was quick to embrace not only this one, but similar establishments across the country that appeared in quick succession over the next decade. Appleton served as con-sultant for many, including some outside of Canada.
“I was the right guy, in the right place, at the right time, with the right knowledge, and the right guy got a hold of me. It was something of a fluke,” Appleton says. “What the incredible success of the craft-beer movement shows is that cognizant beer drinkers have woken up to the [ques-tion] ‘Well, why can’t we have something different?’”
He sees a parallel with the bread-baking industry. Only a few decades ago, supermarkets mainly offered plain white bread made with bleached flour. Today, in response to consumer demand, even a corner store is likely to carry whole-grain bread. “Bread and beer: those have been two staples of the human diet for thousands of years, and the pendulum has swung back,” he says.
Three decades later, Appleton says demand for craft beer is still increasing. “The only sector showing growth is the craft-beer segment, even though it’s more expensive.” Craft-beer producers and supporters in the U.S. have started a movement called “20 for 20”, which aims to see a 20-per-cent market share for craft beer by 2020. With the figure currently around 7.8 per cent in the U.S. (“and a little less in Canada”), that goal seems unrealistic. Still, craft beer seems to be here to stay.
“John Mitchell would say to me ‘It wouldn’t have hap-pened without you,’” he says. “But it would have happened, because it was an idea whose time had come.”
Volume 50, Number 4
Written by Sarah B. Hood