When you think of the state fair, you're likely transported back the days of your youth. Depending on where you grew up, you might think of golden, delicious funnel cakes, or maybe you're salivating over the memory of candied apples or cotton candy. Fair food has a long and storied history throughout the US. One county in Pennsylvania is taking things a bit further, though. They've allowed homebrew beer in the taste judging contest, right alongside the apple pie, barbeque and other, more traditional options.
Crawford County in Pennsylvania will now allow home-brewed beer to be judged alongside other contest entries. While wine has been allowed in the contest for almost 20 years, no such admittance was forthcoming for homebrewed beer. (How many times have we seen wine get preferential treatment?) However, before you get your hopes up and make a mad rush for Pennsylvania, there will be no beer sales at the fair itself. In fact, the judging won't even take place at the fair.
All entries will be judged offsite but allowed to be displayed at the fair. Beer will be allowed entry to the contest in six different categories. You'll find light ale, amber ale, dark ale, light lager, dark lager and specialty brews. It can only be assumed that things like stout and porter will fall under the "specialty brews" moniker, though they're technically descended from ales. Brewers will pay an entry fee of 50 cents per bottle, with a maximum entry number of three bottles. Brewers can only enter one category, though.
The decision was not reached lightly. In fact, there has been some dissent over the decision to have beer judged at the fair in any capacity. However, it is certainly a sign of how widespread the craft brewing industry (and nano brewing in particular) has come in the US. While beer brewing is a rich part of the area's history, it has taken a very long time for it to be acknowledged as such.
Of course, this is only a small sign of the shift in perspectives on craft brewing, but when added to the changing layout of the nation, it's a sure sign that craft brewing (as an industry) is healthy and vibrant. The sheer number of craft brew festivals and events, as well as hometown events like the Crawford County Fair, is a testament to just how important these small breweries have become.