The explosion in the craft beer movement has been anything but modest. As more and more people have discovered, they can start brewing beer in their kitchen and if they continue to improve, a microbrewery could be in the works. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. With the huge amount of craft beer start-ups nationwide, we have seen many already come and go. But the percentage of those coming seems much greater than those that are going. Some people have opined that the craft beer market is becoming too saturated, that there is too much out there for people to really enjoy something unique. There are those really great craft brewers, there are pretty solid breweries, there are the mediocre ones. Many feel that with so many people producing their own brews, that an overall decline in the quality of the beer will occur. What do I think of this? I think it can only improve the overall beer scene. Think about it – the beers all compete for market share, and based on response from the beer drinking public, either your beer is a hit and you survive and ultimately thrive, or you go the way of the Dodo Bird. Many a small label have suffered this fate. Not everyone can be a world class craft brewer.
Even the biggest of the craft breweries are not immune from this kind of change. LoveBeerLoveFood.com noted that when Stone Brewing Co. recently decided to end production of Ruination, the masses let out a collective gasp that could be heard across the nation. They made the decision because for some reason, Ruination simply wasn’t selling like it used to and they had no choice but to scrap production. Stone prides itself in fresh beer – see their “Enjoy By” line of beers. Like anyone with a sense of pride, their decision to toss old beer rather than try to hawk it past its expiration/freshness date means profit loss and bruised pride. They lose a ton of profit margin because of this increased overhead due to wasted labor and goods. That can’t feel good. But changing tastes ultimately dictate what stays and what goes. Thankfully for craft beer, in the grand scheme of things, they continue on an upswing. According to Mother Jones, the number of craft brewers in the US has nearly doubled since 2010, and in the past year alone it has grown another twenty percent.
Another upside to this is that the major labels continue to try and jump into the craft beer game, often with noted lack of success. Budweiser just relaunched their infamous “Peach Pumpkin Ale” commercial, I saw it the other day. What a great way to attract the craft beer lover – by insulting them. They continue marketing Bud Light Lime-A-Rita or some other crap and advertise it with some stooge singing Kool & the Gang songs and acting the fool. What happened to brewing good beer? If they really took pride in their beer – as is stated in that commercial I mentioned – maybe they would focus on brewing better stuff rather than trying to take over a niche market in the fruity mixed drink world. Here’s the straight skinny of it – according to the Huffington Post, craft beer is growing 13 percent to 14 percent each year, with a rather significant drop in production by macro labels (big breweries) like Anheuser-Busch and Coors. They gone from 177.6 million barrels in 2008 to 162.7 million in 2013. They continue to try and gobble up craft breweries – AB Inbev did after all purchase Goose Island – and they have their own take on “craft” (see Blue Moon) but I think this will only strengthen the hand of the smaller market brewers. They stick to their guns and brew the beer they and their patrons love. It doesn’t take a master’s degree in marketing to figure this one out. When it’s all said and done, it is up to us – the beer consuming public – to decide what beers we do or do not want. Craft beer continues to grow simply because they all have more to lose than some executive at a major corporate entity, who gets paid way too much for schtick and catchy, kitschy jingles. Heart and soul drive this thing. Until that changes, I expected continued progress. Cheers…