Outside The Pint: Popping The ‘Craft Beer Bubble’ Talk

Outside the Pint is a look at some of the activities that unfold outside the glass. From marketing to trends to social media to behaviors, OTP taps into the libations scene and candidly discusses the bad, the great, and everything in between.

The Bubble

I remember reading something recently that stated we currently live in a world where, on average, 1.2 breweries are opening every single day in America. That is remarkable. Especially when you consider how hard “the big boys” are working to convince beer drinkers how much better their product is, be it with insult-laden Super Bowl commercials or dirty-pool distribution tactics that make it harder for independent breweries to get their product in front of customers or forming the Big Beer Death Star with AB InBev and SABMiller merging or buying up craft breweries or choking off supply channels and putting smaller breweries in difficult positions.

Beer BubbleBut through it all, beer drinkers have spoken…with their palates, their choices, and their wallets. Those in the craft beer industry must be doing something right, otherwise that aforementioned rapid growth would be a fraction of its current state. And, naturally, this spike in craft beer availability has led many to wonder: When is too much too much? Or, to use the parlance of our times: When is this ‘craft beer bubble’ going to burst?

That’s easy: It’s not. However, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, here’s some explanation (by the way, two Big Lebowski references in the last two paragraphs. Self high-five):

Yes, we undoubtedly have a lot of beer to choose from. But we’ve just recently surpassed the amount of functioning breweries we had prior to Prohibition. And the population has more than tripled since those days. That’s a lot of parched palates to satiate. In addition, as many breweries find their brewing “sweet spot,” their talented brewers are innovating particular styles and placing emphasis on how they can evolve said style. This means, as a craft beer enthusiast, you can go to one brewery and enjoy a nice variety of hoppy beers while venturing to another to enjoy a series of sours. Then, grab an Uber, travel to the next spot, and enjoy some low-ABV beers and then head down the street for a flight of Belgian-inspired offerings. Every brewery offers variety and something for everybody, but the rising amount of beer in the market will continue to show where brewers choose to dedicate the most time in mastering their craft and the creation of their final product.

Quality and passion are key. Anything less means we’ll lose some players along the way. Those who open a brewery thinking they’ll capitalize on a hot trend with no hustle or passion will fade quickly. Those not bringing a quality product to the market will fail to stay afloat. Men and women enter this world because they have a passion for it, not to get rich quick. It’s an art form, not an ATM. Done right, it can be lucrative and rewarding, not just from a financial aspect. But those in it for the wrong reasons don’t stand a chance. It’s hard work with a tremendous payoff that will never come without the sacrifice. The same can be said for any business venture.

Now, all that said, there IS a different figurative bubble I’d like to pop forever and for always. Being connected to the libations world, I find myself communicating with others in the same world on a daily basis. It sometimes leads me to believe I’m living in a bubble of my own that makes me think everyone should know about the next brewery opening or the fact they have a craft brewery a mile from their house or that locally-distilled spirits are just as good, if not better, than some of the national brands.

That’s not the case. I grew up an hour from Southern Tier in Lakewood, New York, and at a family gathering a couple summers ago, found out a great deal of my family members had never heard of it. Even though it’s pretty much the only craft brand available in humble little Bradford, PA. But it’s not something they care about, so why would they absorb and retain that information? It’s like if someone asked me what I thought about the new yarn store opening in my neighborhood. I couldn’t care less, it never would’ve hit my radar, nor would I be able to tell you how many other yarn stores exist in town.

For those of us in the beer world, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The industry is growing. There’s a lot of beer already here and a lot of beer on its way. It’s our responsibility to keep the education flowing as strongly and abundantly as the liquid we enjoy consuming. There are a TON of people who don’t know this quality product exists, thus proving the bubble talk is a big myth.

Let’s focus on winning more people over to the craft beer side and not mocking them for their drink choices. Let’s champion the destinations who take the time to explain what went into creating their product. Let’s get more people on brewery tours and give them a first-hand look at how things operate. Let’s get excited for the fact we live in a world with a metric shit-ton of beverage choices!

There’s plenty of room for more good beer and that philosophy isn’t going to change for some time. Let’s celebrate what we have and not worry about it going away.

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