When I first moved to Tampa in 1985, Mr. Dunderbaks German Biergarten was a tiny space inside one of the area’s largest enclosed malls, seating at most 50 patrons. It had a limited menu along with a decent selection of beers. In the intervening years, the restaurant relocated to a size two-to-three times larger and grew its selection of beer to more than 55 draft brands and hundreds of bottles. Beginning March 3, the Tampa area will celebrate its first Beer Week, and Dunderbaks will be just one participant in the 100+ events that are currently scheduled.

Tampa certainly isn’t alone in its love affair with beer (check out beerweek.com for information on other cities that celebrate this historic beverage). The Beer Institute recently reported that the value of beer sales in restaurants was up more than 9% in 2011, totaling nearly $24 billon. This compares to overall beer sale increases of 2% in 2011, with much of the increase attributable to high-end, craft beer business. The National Restaurant Association’s recently released What’s Hot Chef’s Survey ranks locally produced wine and beer at #8 on the list of top 20 trends, and #1 on the list of trends in alcoholic beverages. Food/beer pairings and beer flights have become popular events in many upscale restaurants, similar to the food/wine pairings and wine flights that have been a staple in the industry for decades. Climbing the list in popularity are products such as organic beer, gluten-free beer, and craft beer.

The origins of beer making are shrouded in history’s mist. The world’s oldest known written recipe comes from Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago and provides instructions for brewing beer, but humans had been drinking the beverage more than 6,000 years before that. One prominent anthropologist even suggests that the thirst for beer may have lead early cave-dwelling humans to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and settle down so that they could grow the ingredients needed to produce their brew. The Babylonians had 16 kinds of beer, and ancient Egyptians wrote about beer in their Book of the Dead. Images of beer drinking and utensils used to make and drink it have been found around the world, from the Norse Vikings to the Niger region of Africa and beyond.

According to data provided by Chain Store Guide’s Instant Demographics, the most recent consumer expenditure survey shows that beer and ale consumed away from home totaled more than $11 billion, nearly half of the total sales of alcoholic beverages consumed on-site.

Chain Store Guide’s database of Chain Restaurant Operators provides detailed information on companies that offer on-premise alcoholic beverage sales. There are currently more than 2,700 U.S. and Canadian companies in our database that sell beer, and alcoholic beverage sales at these companies account for more than $17.5 billion. Customers of our Online Plus restaurant database can query on companies that serve beer, wine and/or liquor and can even search for companies that have a specified number of locations serving one of the alcoholic beverage types.

Chain Store Guide also publishes retailer databases that have an additional 5,600 companies with off-site sale of beer, including more than 2,100 chain supermarket and convenience store operators. Customers of these databases can also identify companies that sell the targeted beverage type.