Tag Archives: craft beer sustainability

Ask The Beer Counselor: What Is The Future?

One thing that happens when I talk to distributor or brewery reps when they come by Craft to either sell me beer or drink beer as patrons, is the future of the American craft beer industry.  I will stipulate that I can barely tell you what my future is over the next 10 months.  So any ideas I have about American craft beer over the next 10 years should be taken with a grain of salt.  I do hope, however, you find this stimulating.

I would like to give a hat tip to The Brew Enthusiast for posting a similar piece a couple of days ago.  His piece got me thinking as I hope mine does for you. Additionally, part of my motivation was to try and find different things that he did not mention in his piece.

Beer will be really big or really small

The primary thing I see happening over the next 10 years is craft brewers will either by really big or really small.  By that I mean, the older established brewers, particularly those that survived the first craft beer boom in the 1990s, will be national breweries.  Think Sierra Nevada or Oskar Blues or a conglomerate like Craft Beer Alliance.  These breweries have large national followings as well as breweries across the country that give them the feel of local breweries.  On the other side, if you look at the Brewer’s Association statistics the explosive growth in the number of craft brewers is fed by the growth of nanobrewing and smaller local breweries serving their surrounding cities and counties.  The group of breweries in the middle, the regional sized brewers who just want to distribute to one or two states are the ones that will be in a dangerous position of trying to be both things: small and large at the same time.

Uniformity in law

The alcohol laws in this country are a messy hodgepodge created out of prohibition, regional mores, and tax burdens.  As the craft beverage industry has grown in economic clout, many of the laws in each state have come under needed attack to make them fairer for producers and easier to navigate for consumers.  Just in the last year you can see the push to make these laws more uniform across the country.  Cities and counties across the country are strapped for tax revenue and the beer business is a way to stimulate growth in failing industrial areas and create tourism.  Changing local and statewide alcohol laws are a way to stimulate the craft beer industry.  One of the things I will say is that even as craft beverage manufacturers get more flexibility with laws distributors and wholesalers will not lose any of their economic clout or political power.  The primary reason for that is many of the most powerful state politicians around the country are also some of the biggest alcohol distributors in their states.  Those with power do not let go easily.

Beer and the environment

Brewers will be forced to take a bigger role in environmental sustainability.  Many already do.  The reason for this is quite simple: At its core brewing is an agricultural business that uses lots of water. Creating brewing processes that use less water or recycle water is something that must be done.  Figuring out ways to repurpose, reuse, or recycle the other ingredients used also must be done.  As I said, many brewers are already doing that.  Many brewers are also using the farm-to-table model of using only local ingredients and other brewers are using the farmhouse brewery model to cut out any of the middlemen.  I love both of those movements and think they will both become more and more important to the craft beer world as the industry progresses.

Beer culture is more than just a fad

This is a culture with a deep vein in all of human history.  The depth of beer culture is more akin to comic books. Both have a deep and strong core of geeks who, while the minority of the people who enjoy it, will never leave and never let the culture go away.   Also, beer culture is growing because the depth and breadth of the ancillary businesses sprouting up around craft beer is amazing.  Not just bars and magazines and those types of things, but businesses that come along and try to enhance (or take advantage of) the experience of craft beer.  This is the reason I don’t think this is a fad that will disappear.

These are just a few ideas and thoughts.  They aren’t quite complete and I reserve the right to change them over the next ten years.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 11/4/15

On my return to the Five Articles, let me just say, sleep isn’t overrated. I needed a break for two reasons.  One, I’m not getting enough sleep to get up a write like I need to.  Two, I got tired of reading the same articles over and over.  I’m going  to be making some changes to make sure I get up early enough to get all the writing done I need to get done to keep myself sane.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 10/23/15

It’s Friday.  What more needs to be said.  Go to work then on your way home have a beer and plan your beer drinking weekend.

  • I hate whales.  Not the marine mammals, but the beers whose rarity increase their value among some beer drinkers.  These are the kind of beers people will line up at 2 am to get in line to buy.  These are the kind of beers people will gladly overpay to buy.  If you are a beer drinker who is buying these beers to drink, I can understand.  I refuse to pay that much for a beer, but I understand.  The people I hate are the same bottom feeders who lurk in every capitalist venture that will buy the beers then auction them off for 10 times what the original insane price was.  This is one of the bad parts of craft beer.
  • I hate to break it to some of the people quoted in this article, but they will be greatly disappointed when this merger is approved. There will be some restrictions placed on the merger (MillerCoors will be sold and hopefully the distributors will be sold).  They will experience further disappointment when this merger doesn’t have the dire effects they believe it will have. It will have effects, but most of which are unknown at the moment.
  • If you think about it, the way the Georgia growler laws happened is very logical. The distributors, always one of the most powerful lobbies in state legislatures, worked it so that they would back off their opposition and get a seat at the table to write the law.  Of course, the law would make no logical sense.  They probably could have done 15 other things to keep the law from passing or to neuter it without making it silly, but they have, in my opinion, overplayed their hand and united the brewers they were trying to screw into a more unified and determined bunch.  People who have power, but don’t know how to effectively use it, always manage to shoot off their own foot in the end.
  • Here is a good article about how craft brewing is becoming a boon for farmers, in this case, South Carolina farmers. They are being helped not only by the craft beer industry in North Carolina, but the formerly dormant South Carolina craft beer industry.
  • I would love to see the Brewers Association or someone do a survey of every brewer in every state to find out what beers brewers would rank as the best in each state. Instead, we keep getting news organizations regurgitating RateBeer, Beer Advocate, or Untappd rankings and reporting them as news for clickbait. Here is your clickbait photo array of the day.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 8/15/15

The weekend is here. That means sports and beer.  I present to you stories about the beer.  Also, I have 3 more reviews left in my week-long porter/stout tasting series.  Another will post later tonight. Onto the Five Articles whose theme today is craft beer is coming, how do we make money from it?

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/27/15

There is a lot to like about this Monday.  You are awake and alive being the primary one.  Also, there are some interesting things to read in the beer world.  Here are my five favorites from this morning.

  • Let’s start with the Evil Empire (I’m using this phrase for a reason which will be evident in the next bullet) or Anheuser-Busch Inbev as it is more commonly called. CNBC breaks down a lot of the strategy A-B has been using in its recent craft beer purchases.  From a purely business standpoint what they are doing makes a great deal of sense.  Also from a business standpoint, I think mergers of smaller regional brewers will occur at a greater rate in the next few years.
  • Speaking of A-B and its role as the Evil Empire of beer, here is a great post about A-B’s existential role in the beer world. This combines most of my favorite geekery.  First, beer.  Second, philosophy.  Third, literary theory.  Fourth, Star Wars.  One of the reasons the original Star Wars trilogy has such staying power is that it adheres so closely to Joseph Campbell’s story telling theories.  Not just how we tell stories, but why.  The things we carry with us to show others, our favorite bands, our favorite movies, our favorite beers, are used to give the world a deeper understanding of who we are. The stories we tell others about ourselves are powerful.  They are second only to the stories we tell ourselves. We craft beer people need A-B as the thing against which we define ourselves.
  • I am beginning to think the biggest impediment to craft beer growth is wholesaler and distributor resistance to change. This post from a conservative think tank in Michigan examines the current regulations in Michigan and how they can be tweaked to help craft beer grow in the state.  Almost every law being written to help craft brewers in some ways shaves off a little of the leverage distributors have historically held.  The system until now has been a beneficial partnership for the distributors as they have helped grow craft beer.  However, the partnership has in many ways been weighted too far to their side.  As brewers gain more strength they are trying to exert more influence for their own means.  Distributors are not about to give up that power easily.
  • Iowa farmers are now starting to plant hops. As we hurtle towards a hop shortage caused by drought and demand, the news that more farmers around the country are starting to experiment with planting hop bines is very welcome.  I also like the idea of hops and malt being locally sourced for brewers.  It makes the beer fresher and if the brewer is good, better tasting.
  • Now for some frippery: Beer Choir.  There isn’t much explanation I can give.  The name kind of says it all.  There are a lot of interesting and silly things popping up around craft beer that keeps pushing it towards being more than just a trend, but towards becoming a lifestyle.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/25/15

Saturdays are the days when news organizations unleash their B-teams on the news world and you get a lot of fluff pieces and no real news.  So, if you’re trying to create a list of the best news stories to read on Saturday morning you work with you get, and today I got a pretty good group of stories to work with.  Here are the five.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/8/15

After taking a little time off, it has been a little difficult to get back into the swing of things, but that will change after today.  Here is today’s links.

  • The week that I started this blog, the story of raising the distribution cap for North Carolina breweries was just getting warmed up. The cap was defeated.  It wasn’t defeated by a vote, but by parliamentary maneuvering that kept it from coming to a vote.  Anyway, the story will not die and it will come back to the legislature.  While on one hand I think breweries were overly ambitious in their request to go from 25,000 barrels to 100,000  and a little naive as to the power of the wholesalers and distributors, I agree the distribution cap should be raised.
  • This is the type of argument that will work for those trying to change beer laws to make the lives of craft breweries easier around the country. Brewers taking old, unwanted, and unused properties and rehabbing them for purposes of brewing beer and raising tax revenue is a true story told all across the country.  For states and municipalities that are having trouble meeting budgets because of tax shortfalls finding new businesses to breath life into business districts is an argument that people who don’t like beer must respect.
  • Marketing craft beer has to be hard. On one hand, you have a core of consumers who don’t want to be marketed to and care only that your product is good.  They will find out about you without the help of TV ads and they crave the independent spirit authenticity of craft beer.  On the other hand, you have the curious normal people who you somehow have to get the word out to while maintaining the authenticity they covet. So, how do you market to people who don’t want to be marketed to?
  • I love anything that helps make craft beer a more local product. The deeper I have gotten into craft beer the more I seek out stories and beers with a farm to pint mentality.  Here is another such story out of Iowa.
  • I am surprised that more high-end grocery stores in suburban areas aren’t doing this. Putting taps in grocery stores for tastings and growler fills seems like a no brainer for those types of stores.  That would be catnip for their customer bases.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/1/15

Links for a Wednesday.  Sorry they are late, I watched the US/Germany match twice last night.

  • The craft beer business is in an interesting time. It took a while but the big mass market brewers finally took notice a few years ago and started buying some craft concerns.  Goose Island was one of them. This allows the smaller beer companies to get an expansion to other markets.  However, this comes at a time when the local food, slow food, farm to table movements are gaining steam.  The idea of beer is an agricultural product has caught hold.  That means it tastes best when it is made with fresh ingredients and you can get the product as close to its kegging/bottling/canning date as possible.  Drinkers and brewers are starting to notice this fact. Most of the breweries that have started commercial operations in the last couple of years are nano-breweries producing small amounts of beer for their local customers.
  • Growlers are spreading across the nation. Every time they are allowed in a new market, local news covers it like it is the strangest thing in the world. “You can go to a bar and take home the beer? How is this possible?”
  • Craft brewers are at the forefront of making brewing more environmentally sustainable. Again, this goes back to the increased localization of craft brewing.  Even with their massive operation coming to Asheville and the surrounding area, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and New Belgium are taking extreme care to be environmentally friendly and to be part of the community as much a large national corporation can.
  • Here is a slide show and short write up of the NC Brewer’s Celebration held in Charlotte over the weekend. I was not able to attend, but I can tell you a lot of people went to the festival.  Then a lot of them came over to Craft afterwards.  A lot.
  • And we are still arguing over what is craft beer and what isn’t. It is a tiring and somewhat silly argument.  All I want is this, brewers to tell me where their beer was made and what they used to make it.  If it tastes good I’ll drink it.  If it is local even better.  If the ingredients are as fresh and as local as possible then I’ll jump for joy (metaphorically).  Just stop using the term craft as a cudgel against mass market beer.  Actually, let me change that.  I just ask mass market brewers to stop creating brands and then alluding to them being craft. I just want truth in advertising.  We the consumers know what is good and what isn’t.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/25/15

The links are here.  Have fun reading.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/17/15

If you are in the South right now, it is hot.  As I write this it is not quite 8 am and it is 80 degrees.  That is totally uncalled for.  So, why not think about cold, cold beer.  Here are the links.