Brewing up love
Weddings tap craft beer craze

MICHAEL HILL
The Associated Press
Modified: August 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm •  Published: August 24, 2012
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photo - In this image taken on April 30, 2011 provided by Sassani Photography, bride, Robin Lehr, left, and groom, Chris Lehr and guests drink beer at their wedding reception held at House on the Hill in Austin, Texas. The Lehrs made four different beers, including a 16-hour brewing marathon day to make 45 gallons, for their wedding. (AP Photo/Sassani Photography, Ben Sassani)
In this image taken on April 30, 2011 provided by Sassani Photography, bride, Robin Lehr, left, and groom, Chris Lehr and guests drink beer at their wedding reception held at House on the Hill in Austin, Texas. The Lehrs made four different beers, including a 16-hour brewing marathon day to make 45 gallons, for their wedding. (AP Photo/Sassani Photography, Ben Sassani)

You may now chug with the bride.

Toasting the bride and groom with Champagne is de rigueur. But recently, couples hip (or is that hops?) to craft beers are shaking up the wedding reception scene by insisting on serving the brews they love on their big day, everything from local ales to home brews concocted by the bride and groom.

It's not unusual for stouts and pilsners to flow at receptions or for rehearsal dinners to feature "beer flight" tastings of different craft brews. The high-end Baltimore caterer Chef's Expressions offers hors d'oeuvres consisting of a shot glass of beer and a burger slider.

One couple even set up tasting stations with beers from around the world, said Anja Winikka, site editor of TheKnot.com. Another couple who met in the Yukon served beer from Yukon Brewing in an ice-packed canoe.

When Julie Ho and Ben Rinn of New York City wed in April, they chose craft beers representing their Texas roots (Shiner Bock) and their college years at Johns Hopkins University (from local brewer Brewer's Art).

"A lot of weddings with beer you have your Coors Lights and your Bud Lights out," said Ho, who hired Chef's Expressions for the wedding at Johns Hopkins' stately Peabody Library. "We definitely wanted to have good beers out because we do enjoy drinking good beer. And then we also wanted to make sure we included what we like."

There's little danger Champagne will get knocked off its bridal throne, but the craft brew buzz running through the wedding scene is yet another sign that beer — once a workingman's beverage sold in pop-top cans — has successfully transformed into a respectable artisanal beverage suitable for nuptial toasts.

Americans have warmed up to hoppier, tangier brews, and the volume of craft beer produced nationwide has jumped 83 percent since 2005, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. Crucially, craft beers also have proven more female friendly. Unlike mainstream beer makers — who spend millions on commercials featuring man-children and their improbably hot girlfriends — the small-batch brews offer artisanal overtones and endless flavors.

But while craft beer has been making inroads for years, wedding industry people have really noticed its presence increasing in the last year or two. Winikka explained that the tradition-bound wedding industry tends to be slow to latch on to trends. She also noted that more couples are paying for their own weddings, and thus are less bound to expectations of what others want.

Plus, beer is really fun.

"What you're seeing is that instead of the signature cocktail — like the fruity, weird martini thing that a lot of people were doing five, 10 years ago — couples are saying, 'That's not really our style, so were going to do a beer flight at our cocktail hour,'" Winikka said.

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