Kentucky is bourbon country. Bar shelves in Louisville are stocked with a crowded field of premium bourbons; the city's Theater Square Marketplace restaurant alone carries close to 170 different brands. So when news trickled out that longtime distillery Maker's Mark plans to water down its bourbon, locals were stunned.
Bourbon has to be aged at least two years — and that's where Maker's Mark got in trouble. Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels says the company simply didn't make enough.
Yeast can be pretty demanding little buggers, despite being unicellular microscopic organisms. Brewers know they must appease them to get the beer they want.
"It's yeast-strain dependent, it's environment, it's temperature, oxygen levels," says Matt Brophy, brewmaster of Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Md. "There's a lot of variables that you need to have a high level of control over."
As beer drinkers demand increasingly obscure beers with ingredients like jalapenos or rhubarb, smaller and smaller breweries are stepping up to the plate. New Hampshire is one state helping these brewery startups get off the ground, with new laws that make it easier for small-scale breweries to obtain licenses and distribute their craft beers.