Wyo.’s craft beer, liquor boom suggests cultural shiftNews Type: Regional Source: Mountain West News
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Samuel Western writes that the success of craft breweries and micro-distilleries in tiny towns and small cities across Wyoming suggests a cultural shift — and an alternative to extractive economics.
The state’s heritage is all about being the first link of a long, global supply chain. Since territorial times, the state’s relentless focus has been on extracting and exporting raw materials for fuel, particularly oil, gas, and coal. With energy-related enterprises making up 60 percent of its economy, it’s the least diversified state in the union. And yet most of that energy is processed out of state. Wyoming’s famous cattle industry is similar: The animals are raised here, but the value is added elsewhere. Though the state contains 1.3 million beef cattle, most of that is shipped to meatpacking plants beyond its borders. Wyoming has but onefull-service USDA-inspected packinghouse. It can process a maximum of ten headper day.
That’s what makes Wyoming’s craft beer and liquor boom such a surprising counterpoint. The movement is about building processing infrastructure locally and keeping money circulating in home communities, no matter how modest their size. It’s symbolic of an attitude that hasn’t been prevalent in Wyoming since WWII, though even then it was hanging on by a thread: an ethos of family-owned businesses that buy raw material locally, add value, and serve local customers. Even when products are sent over the border for sale, they’re shipped fully finished — so the money comes back home.