Craft and Macro Moving Towards Singularity?
Say it ain’t so Joe. The title of this piece may be a little off-putting, because as a craft beer lover, I refuse to bow to the macro gods who seek to indoctrinate me with pricey commercial advertising, slick marketing gimmicks and a complete lack of flavor or passion. After reading those first few lines, I’m hoping you understand that this piece is but one humble opinion from a devoted beer lover. Opinions will vary, just as personal tastes can and will. Anyway, I read an article and had a subsequent discussion with someone not long ago about how craft beer brewers have to seemingly move towards brewing more traditional beers that are acceptable to the masses. This, many will say, is the only way to really appeal to a broad audience. Thankfully, most of the craft brewers I respect want nothing of the sort. Conversely, it seems that the major labels are doing everything they can to not sell you crappy beer, or at least make it seem a little less crappy. They have seen the writing on the wall and know that beer lovers are running away from them in droves for more flavorful products from small-time guys who truly put everything into their craft. They understand the passion and dedication it takes to making these beers, unlike the big boys who have seemingly forgotten that love, drowned out by a flood of cash influx. Macro labels have poll-tested and focus-grouped the crap out of the drinking public and it seems that they have come to an undeniable conclusion – If you want to appeal to this audience, you have to try and offer something they can relate to. This means if you want to compete with craft, you have to create like craft.
Major brewers making craft beer? Yeah, okay sure. I’ll buy that for a dollar. But it seems that is the direction the big boys are heading. At least that’s where they want the public to think they’re going. After all, with those big breweries, they have so much in overhead that they have to increase their profits to make sure they stay successful and profitable. That’s where the mass production of cheap, adjunct-laden beer comes into play. They pump out hundreds of thousands of barrels of beer at a relatively lower cost, all things considered. They market the crap out of the product and generate millions in sales. The problem here is that while they stand to make a ton of money by the drones and sheep who silently obey their commands and follow their advertising and sales pitches like lemmings. It still doesn’t make the beer any better. I don’t care what you think, you’re not going to land that smoking hot snow bunny in a bikini like you see in their commercials with that beer gut and a silver can of Rocky Mountain water in your hands. Sorry brother, it’s just not gonna happen. This is what gets me though – craft brewers continue to rise in popularity because of the superior quality and high demand for their beers. People know that they are getting a better product and seem to be more than willing to pay extra for it. But what happens when you have so much demand that you can’t continue to sell enough beer to satisfy the demanding public and/or meet your operating costs? You have to upgrade your brewery and its equipment. You have to increase your output to meet the demand. Herein lies the problem – craft brewers are great because they make their beer in smaller batches and with great attention to detail. But when they can’t keep the supply to meet demand, they are forced to increase their costs to further aid in expansion of production, distribution, etc. Does this mean they have to sacrifice quality for quantity? Do they have to forgo the genuine passion and care that they put towards a better product in light of needing to satisfy the growing demand? By God, they shouldn’t have to. Here is where the paradox presents itself.
Major labels are seemingly trying to co-opt the craft beer legions with their take on good beer. They know it will bring in greater revenue by expanding their beer-style portfolio and making them look more respectable and in tune with “the people.” Smaller labels want to get bigger so that they can satisfy a greater amount of customers. They work tirelessly to increase production to continue their upward climb. But do they sacrifice some of that small-time, tight-knit crew, family-like vibe when they realize they have to bring on more people and hire ad agencies, marketing and PR firms to get their message out to more people? After all, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of this on your own or with a handful of friends/family. Do they realize that they are becoming more like the big boy brands that many of their die hard followers have shunned? Will they suffer the same fate? It’s hard to generate such success without selling at least part of your soul. Very few have accomplished that feat. It seems to me that while many a brewery want to continue to be successful and share their hard work with their patrons, they realize they also must stay humble and not sell out to the power players in the beer industry. This would undoubtedly alienate much of their consumer base, which would pretty much defeat their purpose for being entirely.
Now, with all that being said, do not let yourself be fooled by any kind of advertising or marketing ploys. Go with what you know. Hopefully that means flavorful, satisfying brews that open your mind to a continued search for better beer. I’m always trying new flavors when I can get them, because I want to find the perfect brew, something I will never get tired of drinking. I’m hoping you join me in that quest. Don’t sacrifice your taste buds to cheaper beer because it is the difference between a bomber of this good beer or a six pack of something crappy. You can always get more crappy beer for the same price, but what have you really accomplished? A whole lot of sub-par beer, regardless of quantity – still doesn’t equal a little bit of good beer. Stick to our credo – Stay thirsty, but stay different. Cheers…