In 1965, Frederick (Fritz) Maytag III began a decades-long revitalization of Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, California. This was an unexpected venture from an unlikely brewer; for generations, Maytag's family had run the Maytag Washing Machine Company in Iowa and he had no training in brewing. Yet Maytag's career at Anchor initiated a phenomenal wave of growth in the American brewing industry that came to be known as the microbrewing—now “craft beer”—revolution. To understand Maytag's path, this article draws on original oral histories and artifacts that Maytag donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History via the American Brewing History Initiative, a project to document the history of brewing in the United States. The objects and reflections that Maytag shared with the museum revealed a surprising link between the birth of microbrewing and the strategies and culture of mass manufacturing. Even if the hallmarks of microbrewing—a small-scale, artisan approach to making beer—began as a backlash against the mass-produced system of large breweries, they relied on Maytag's early, intimate connections to the assembly-line world of the Maytag Company and the alchemy of intellectual curiosity, socioeconomic privilege, and risk tolerance with which his history equipped him.
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Research Article| November 01 2019
Craft Beer's Unlikely Alchemist
Theresa McCulla is Curator of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Her research and writing explore the histories and material culture of race, ethnicity, and gender in relation to food and drink.
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Gastronomica (2019) 19 (4): 78–90.
Theresa McCulla; Craft Beer's Unlikely Alchemist. Gastronomica 1 November 2019; 19 (4): 78–90. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2019.19.4.78
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