National Public Radio: Craft Breweries Pour New Life Into Small Towns

EXCERPT: “Chris Hernstrom was brewing in the craft beer mecca of Bend, Ore., when an ad caught his eye: Want to live somewhere gorgeous and make beer for a small community? ‘It just seemed like an interesting challenge to come out to basically the exact opposite of Bend, some place where the brewing industry is still in its fledgling stages,’ Hernstrom says. That place, Hernstrom’s new home, is the cattle ranching hub of Valentine, Neb., population 2,700, tucked into the Niobrara River valley in the Sand Hills. Hernstrom is head brewer at the Bolo Beer Company. On a recent weeknight, he was pouring pints of Aquifer Ale and filling carryout growlers of Wild West Wheat. With its modern pendant lights and bar made of reclaimed wood, the newly opened taproom looks as if it would be more at home in Seattle or Denver than in rural Nebraska. And that is no accident. After Hernstrom was recruited to town, he noticed there were a lot of recently transplanted 20- and 30-somethings — some new to town but many who returned home after being away for college or living in cities . . . While it’s probably too early to call it a trend, what is happening in Valentine is part of a broader cultural phenomenon in rural America. Young people who grew up in small towns and have been watching them struggle from afar are feeling this calling to come home.” FULLSTORY: