In 1873 there were 4,131 breweries in the U.S. By 1983, the number had dropped to 80, and those were controlled by only 50 companies. Now we're up to over 1,500 and more are being founded every day. For that we have two people to thank: Jimmy Carter, who signed the legislation allowing homebrewing in 1979 and Fritz Maytag, who resurrected the Anchor Brewing Company in 1965 and helped give birth to the microbrew phenomenon in the late 70s and early 80s. If you're interested in learning more about this craft brewing trend, I can recommend the 2004 documentary American Beer which features interviews with Maytag and many other small brewers throughout the nation. Please don't drink Coors or Budweiser while watching it.
The Anchor Brewing Co. Liberty Ale from San Francisco is based on a recipe first introduced in 1975 and meant to commemorate the bicentennial of Paul Revere's ride. It's a full flavored beer with a decent hoppiness. More bitter than you may be used to, but not close to an India Pale Ale. When I picked it up at Fresh Market, I happened to notice that the escargot had returned to the seafood case. A half dozen snails, a bit of crusty bread, and a great beer: perfect afternoon snack.
Maytag also runs the dairy that produces the acclaimed Maytag Blue cheese. This cow's milk cheese has a wonderful, creamy texture and a rich, sharp flavor that rivals many French bleus. It works well in salads, on top of steak, or simply on its own with Port after dinner. Although it's still an artisanal cheese, it's becoming a little easier to find in formats such as the little wedge pictured.
Fritz Maytag has also gotten involved in the wine business through York Creek Vineyards. I couldn't locate one of these wines, but his commitment to small-batch, high quality production means that I'm really looking forward to trying his wine in the future.