Last night on Twitter, Bryan Roth asked a question, does the beer matter for a brewery to be successful? I quickly replied yes. Amid a few replies and forth Bryan recommended I read this article. I did. For my non-business type brain, I gathered what the article says is if you are planning on selling your craft beverage business (brewery, winery, distillery) this is probably the best time to do it. The market is still in growth mode and hasn’t quite saturated yet.
It is a good article, especially if you know anything about business, but I don’t really want to talk about that. I want to get back to the question Bryan asked, “Does a brewery actually have to make good beer to succeed?” He attached the screen grab below. I suggest you go to Bryan’s Twitter timeline right now because the question is still getting replies.
As I said, I immediately jumped in and said, yes, the beer in the glass matters. Eventually, even if you have a great story, you are a local brewery and represent something greater than yourself, you must make good beer to be successful long-term. One of my core beliefs about craft beer is the liquid in the glass is all that matters. If craft beer gets to the point where the beer doesn’t matter more than the story, what is the difference between craft beer and big beer? The altruistic reasons you get to a place are meaningless if you get to the same place as the bad guys. All that matters is you are in the same place.
I understand a lot of people coming to craft beer right now aren’t coming because they believe the beer tastes better. I serve beer to a lot of these people every day. In Charlotte, it is the “it” thing to do. Also, people believe local is always better. They want to support local breweries and they will drink their beer and smile and tell me how good something is. However, in a market as saturated as Charlotte is and will become, you must make good beer to survive. In a smaller market where there are only one or two breweries nearby, you can get away with it, but you will never grow outside of that market.
What I hope and I think will happen is as Charlotte’s market becomes more mature and people drink more good beer, they will start to discern what is good and what isn’t. Right now, most drinkers know what is good. They haven’t learned what is bad yet. In other words, when they drink it, they know what a good witbier tastes like, but they don’t know what a witbier isn’t supposed to taste like.
I understand and support the idea of craft beer as part of the slow food, local, artisanal cultural dynamic that shuns chain restaurants, big box stores, and big beer. I’m one of the people fortunate to be able to afford to buy a lot of those things (artisanal soap, yes please), but the products must be good (and somewhat affordable) to survive long term.
A great story is wonderful. It should help with the marketing and selling of your product. However, if that is all you have at some point someone is going to call you on it and you will fail. Kind of like what happens here.