I have issues with this article. My issue is not with the overall premise that craft beer sales are slowing down. I’ve been one of the people saying the slowdown was coming for over a year now. That was to be expected. The explosive growth of the last few years within craft beer was unsustainable. You combine too many breweries with the virtually the same amount of shelf-space and a slightly lower number of available taps, growth was bound to slow. Combine that with the growing movement towards more localized beer choices and could not keep its growth at the same level.
I think those factors affect the bigger craft brewers the most. Stone, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Ballast Point have expanded their footprints across the country, into places that didn’t have huge local craft beer scenes. Now, in part because of these large brewers moving across the country like Johnny Appleseed, there are breweries popping up in the unlikeliest of places giving people the option of locally brewed and locally owned (very important) beer.
So, again, my problem isn’t with the overall premise of the article. My problem is with the examples used. If the writer wanted data to back up his premise, that information is easily available from the Brewers Association. They even have a staff economist who blogs and tweets and everything.
Instead, Bloomberg News, used AB-Inbev, Craft Beer Alliance, and Stone Brewing as examples. First, AB-Inbev is a company that owns brewers and has purchased craft brewers it isn’t an actual brewer much less a craft brewer. Second, the slowdown AB is experiencing is focused on its Brazilian market. The whole of the Brazilian economy is a mess and the people of Brazil don’t have money to spend on beer instead they are trying to buy things like food. So, while that is a factor in the slowdown of the overall world beer market it isn’t indicative of a slowdown in the craft beer market.
The second example is the Craft Beer Alliance cutting production of Redhook. Craft Beer Alliance for those who don’t get into the weeds of craft beer, is a group of breweries funded, in part, by a capital funding firm bankrolled by, wait for it, AB-Inbev. CBA is cutting production of Redhook because no one is buying Redhook. The last time I had Redhook was at least ten years ago. Question, why would anyone in say North Carolina buy a Redhook when you can drive 5 to 15 minutes and get a fresh beer.
Stone Brewing has spent money on two new breweries one in Richmond, VA and one in Germany. They spent money like they expected the road to go on forever and the party to never end. As, I’ve said, the nature of craft brewing is becoming more localized in nature and large national craft brewers must adjust to this new world.
Writers who understand craft beer have already written about this subject in better and more comprehensive ways. Two of my favorites are Jason Notte and Bryan D. Roth.