Twitter turns 7 today, and I thought that was as good a reason as any to go back to a time we call the 1980s and discover American craft beer’s first consumer foray onto the Internet.
The first Internet site for craft beer consumers was started in late 1986 by Rob Gardner out of Fort Collins, Colo. This was, I should note, nearly three years before Tim Berners-Lee developed what he called the World Wide Web. The Internet was something else: a network of users generally connected through their academic or government positions; it was aesthetically disjointed and driven by spotty service (dial-up, anyone?). This was not an era of user-friendly, slick design, to be sure. Gardner’s email newsletter was called “The Brewsletter,” though by decade’s end it would grow into the “Home Brew Digest,” a forum for homebrewers and beer enthusiasts worldwide.
The digest was largely an all-text, black-and-white affair, a compendium of messages that Gardner had received or that had been emailed to the subscriber list. And, again, due to the nature of the Internet then, most of the subscribers were college students or staff. The exchanges between these subscribers usually started with a request for information or a question, like this exchange, on Nov. 11, 1988, initiated by someone from Clemson University in South Carolina:
Subject: Ginger Beer/Honey Beer
Does anyone have a recipe for ginger beer or for a honey beer? A friend
has recommended that I try both of these, but neither of one of us has a
recipe. I am fairly new to this hobby, so any general advice would also
The request shows just how far-reaching not only the American craft beer movement was by 1988, but just how far-reaching Gardner’s newsletter had become. South Carolina, mind you, had yet to legalize homebrewing at the state level and it contained zero craft breweries then. Thanks to the Internet, however, information was nevertheless being disseminated there in a fashion unthinkable only a few short years before.
We, of course, know how this ends: With you reading online about when craft beer logged on.