I’ve been reading a lot of articles and posts recently about the state of craft beer. Much of the literature paints a doomsday scenario, going as far to say the golden age of craft brew is upon us (I’m sure much of that, like most things on the internet, is due to regurgitated copies of copies with little to no analysis or original thought.) Well…I beg to differ with those profiteering plagiarists.
As an avid craft beer drinker who has been enjoying and brewing craft beer since college in the early 2000’s, I truly appreciate the plethora of choices on the shelves. Back then, in San Luis Obispo at least, craft beer meant Firestone Walker and Sam Adams. Of course, Rolling Rock, Natty Light and Pabst were always available and affordable, but one had to have a few more bucks to get the top-shelf brew. You certainly weren’t going to throw a kegger with or pass out those special beers to your friends. It’s a different day now and I’m glad craft beer has finally gotten to the point of recognition, acceptance and choice.
Is there some perversion of the term “craft” by mega producers snatching up small-brew outfits? Sure, without a doubt. “Crafty” beers are here to stay as long as the monopolies of big beer are allowed to thrive. However, still the vast majority of craft beer is still brewed by microbreweries (facts).
Given this fact, I feel craft beer is just starting to take off.
Look around…a lot of cities and towns in the United States–maybe yours–with a bustling and growing economy are showing signs of life. In down towns and main streets old restaurants are filled. New restaurants are popping up. Art galleries actually have interesting art to ponder. There is usually a wine tasting room nearby. And, by an incredible accident of sorts, there may be a brewery or two serving as the anchor of the epicenter of prosperity. All this activity nurtures a local culture while nourishing its economy.
Breweries have a long history of being economic catalysts. Not only do they create jobs directly in the operation, but the stakeholders are plenty. Local suppliers, bottlers, shippers, and surrounding business all benefit. For example, if there’s no downtown, because many breweries are located in industrial parks, the brewery will invite food trucks to set up shop creating a win-win-win scenario for the customer, chef and brewer alike. Not to mention the tiny bit of extra visibility unrelated or “hidden” businesses get from the increased foot traffic.
I only mention the economic factor because towns and cities are growing and breweries seem to be the bellwether of development. At the same time, Millennials’ tastes and preferences are finally coming to the forefront as their purchase power increases and Baby Boomers’ finances are reduced to fixed income and medical bills, and the need for gathering places is only increasing as social media dominates folks lives. With all the changes going on, how can one say the golden age of craft brew is waning? Simply because profits aren’t as large or market share is stagnating or there’s too many beers out there? Rather than focus on those metrics, allow me to introduce one more: customer satisfaction.
It seems customer satisfaction keeps growing as craft beer drinkers can get nearly any type of beer they can dream of. So let’s not lose sight of the goal that customer satisfaction is paramount in any industry. No matter the other metrics, if beer drinkers aren’t happy with the beer they’re drinking, the market will surely dry up and perish like a raisin in the sun. Until that time, plan to see more microbreweries come into the fold and introduce the dawn of craft beer–putting all that “golden-age” talk to the side.