In a recent interview with Jim Koch of Sam Adams (Boston Beer Co.) fame, he was quoted in reference to a craft beer bubble that is soon to burst. His view that we are currently in a bubble that will soon burst reminded me of another interview I read recently from another big name in the beer world.
This other interview with Charlie Papazian one of the pioneers of the craft brewing movement and president of the Brewer’s Association also touched upon the craft bubble. In his view there is no bubble at all. We are actually on a road to explosive growth.
Who should we believe? On one hand you have the largest craft brewer in the US talking of bleak and doom. On the other a founding father of the whole movement sounds almost polyanna in his visions of the future. In the US we are currently at a position of brewery growth that we have not seen in over 100 years. Craft breweries are gaining ground in a market of extreme competition. The major players, the brewing companies that survived Prohibition, the ones who have had established ground since before the late 70s, have been losing ground for a while now.
In an era of bigger, better, faster, it seems to follow that the road to survival is to spread out as far and as fast as possible. Mind you, we have seen the results of this through the mega breweries. At some point you end up cannabalizing those around you in order to feed your ever expanding girth.
In a distant past, the majority of breweries that existed were small, local, their patrons were the community. There was no worry of gaining market share in Cleveland when you operated in Lansing (just an example). Maybe I am a bit idyllic but hasn’t that been what the craft movement has meant for many; support local, buy local, live local.
We won’t know what our future holds till we arrive. But of course the fun of the trip is the journey. We have much to explore and discovery on our way.
Time for a pint…