There are two side effects of craft beer becoming a big business. One, you get people starting breweries because they think it will be a lucrative opportunity. They don’t care about the quality of or making interesting beer. They are looking to get in build a reputation and sell to the highest bidder. That is an idiotic strategy because the startup costs of a brewery are steep and creating a reputation for good beer is harder than you think, and the big beer companies aren’t going to buy you just because people like your beer.
The other side effect is the same idea on the other end of the craft beer industry. These same people who think starting a brewery will be lucrative sometimes do enough research to see the folly of that idea and instead decide to start a craft beer bar, a slightly less risky venture.
Again, you run into the same problem as before, they don’t care about beer in general and craft beer in particular. They don’t buy good beer and more importantly, they don’t train their staff about craft beer styles or how to properly serve beer.
In England, where cask ale is still hanging on, matters can be worse. Cask ales are living breathing beers that need to be cared for and served properly to get the experience for the customer correct. What is a person who has championed cask ales for years to do when it appears the many of the pubs serving cask ale don’t do it properly? Walk away.
At Craft, we are asked the question of why we don’t put on casks every few months. As the article points out, it is difficult to do correctly, we don’t really have space, and even if we did get those parts right we would probably still end up pouring out at least a quarter of each cask because it didn’t sell quick enough.
Cask ales were the foundation of why craft beer took off initially in England and the UK. However, progress is often unfair because it happens too quick at times. It is often true that science and technology advance quicker than our morality to deal with its consequences does. Craft beer is advancing as a business much quicker than our ability educate everyone involved with it. That is why easily accessible programs like Cicerone are so important.
Craft beer was created in response to beer companies that treated beer like widgets, an industrial product to be made as quickly and as cheaply as possible. We in the industry must guard against this same business at all costs mindset from eating this thing we’ve created from within. It is a business, let there be no doubt, but it is a business that should be an example of how business should care about their customers and the quality of their product more than just how much return investors get every quarter. Maybe it is naive to think craft beer can do that, but we should at least try.