One of the things that bothers me about how we consume culture today is the constant chase for what’s next. Sometimes, we get so carried away with finding the next cool thing that we forget to enjoy what we have now. We forget to live in the moment.
Craft beer in this country is an example of an industry always looking for the next cool style. I can’t figure out if it is the newer craft beer drinkers or just craft beer drinkers in general who push for new flavors and new styles seemingly every six months. Whoever it is, these consumers are aided by the fact that there are new breweries with new ideas popping up all the time. There is always something new to try.
Most of these younger breweries have also adopted to this consumer mindset by constantly rolling out new beers.
However, what if you are a legacy craft brewer who built your very successful business around one flagship beer and three or four other core beers. That is what is happening to Geary in Maine. It is what happened to Highland in North Carolina. It is what has happened to Sierra Nevada and Avery. How do these breweries that have been around for so long adapt to the world that they built changing right under their feet?
In the case of Highland, they brought in a new younger brewer to update their lineup. It has worked. They added four new beers last year including the very successful Mandarina IPA and are planning to add another four in the first half of 2017. There is a different feeling around Highland now then there was just 12 months ago. The Mandarina IPA and the Pilsner, also added this year, have revitalized sales and jumpstarted something of a renaissance of the brewery among younger craft beer drinkers.
Avery is cutting six core beers from its lineup. These beers all still sell well for Avery, but they have been around for a while and it seems the brewery is trying to stay ahead of the curve and dumping them before they become stale and a drag on the brewery.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of the beers the whole craft beer enterprise is built upon. However, the brewery has seen the sales numbers slip for the stalwart in recent years. Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any plans to retire it, but Sierra Nevada has added hoppier and beers that hue towards the newer taste profiles preferred by today’s craft beer drinkers.
The legacy brewers must adapt to the times and to today’s beer drinkers. That doesn’t mean jettisoning your flagship beers. The beer world would be a worse place without Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Highland Gaelic Ale. However, these brewers also should build around those beers with fresher and newer tastes and flavors. I don’t think they should chase after potential drinkers with hard root beer or anything that egregious, but they should look at some of the things Highland has done in introducing new flavors and styles within the parameters of its established brand.