Why Just A Week?

For BeerNexus.com

So the week of May 14-18 was deemed American Craft Beer Week, by the Brewers
Association. And the focus of the week was recognizing the small and independent
craft brewers using the fairly new Independent Craft Brewer Seal on their products.
Okay I get it, they want to promote their new symbol which allows us consumers to
know which of the craft breweries have been bought out by the mega brews and stay
away if we so choose. That’s a great idea but it doesn’t work in a restaurant or bar
for beers on tap or for cans and bottles if you’re reading the menu and can’t peruse
the merchandise.

In some of my travels I’ve found establishments actually understand there is a
difference and they will list a “Local” section on their menu which is great and I
appreciate that, although it won’t necessarily distinguish between the small
independent and mega s either since that’s not what local means. Having
knowledgeable servers really helps also because there are numerous times I’ve gone
in and asked about local brews and it became obvious very quickly that I knew more
about their beers than they did, which with server turnover and who knows how many
shifts a week they’re working and maybe they have better things to do like classwork
and they make more in tips if you order a meal than a lousy craft beer, well I get it
good help is hard to find and keep.

So this new independent craft beer symbol works really well in stores where you can
walk up and down the aisles and refrigerated section and look at the merchandise,
but then again you have to get past the name and the graphics and really be reading
the can or bottle. I do like to read the brewery description, check the ABV and IBUs
so have a better chance to see it than some others. I have been fooled a couple of
times before the introduction of this new symbol and picked up a beer new to me,
that I didn’t realize was now owned by a mega brewer. Not that I boycott those beers,
we know the mega brewery bought them because they make good beer, but having a
choice my preference is to support the true independent craft brewers. Then again I’
m not usually in the habit of buying a beer I’ve never tasted unless one of my beer
buds recommended it or I read about it. There’s just something about buying a four
or six pack and not particularly liking the beer, so what do I do with the rest…

Okay side note on that.about twenty years ago my friend gave me a 12 pack of
Rheingold when it was re-introduced. I was never a Rheingold drinker growing up,
but this stuff was awful! So what do I do pass them off or throw them out?  I went out
and got a 12 pack of Guinness and made black and tans instead of tossing them out..
That was the only way I could drink them but with so much good beer today I’d
probably toss them.

I’m sure there are many craft beer lovers who don’t have the luxury of going out and
trying many of the different breweries and styles that are available to see if they like
them and do pickup different four and six packs to try, so this new symbol can assist
them, if they care who owns the brewery.

Back to the bar and restaurant issue. The Brewers Association can’t be out there
contacting as many as possible to publicize and educate them about this week,
suggest ideas, and hope they participate.  That would be a monumental task. I’m
supposing they’re  hoping/expecting their member breweries are working with their
local and maybe not so local establishments to try to set something up, which they’re
probably always out trying to get their brews into bars, restaurants and stores.  I’m
guessing any establishment that tells their customers they focus on craft beers would
pick up on this and maybe try to do something special, but if they’re doing craft beer
events already I’m not sure what they might try to do different.

My local favorite craft beer bar actually did and brought in the five oldest surviving
(since if they didn’t survive it would be really tough to still get their product and if you
could you may not want to drink it; It’s called shelf life) NJ breweries and put a bunch
of their beers on tap.  I’ve had many of them but went because it’s a great way to
honor those NJ pioneers. And it appeared to be a great success; the place was really
buzzing by early afternoon and I believe continued on into the night (I do take leave
after a few beers…). I didn’t see any other notices of any other special events in
other places during that week, although I’m sure there must have been some.

I’m thinking the other group that would be interested in promoting this is the
distributors. Basically their whole job and interest is to get the products they carry out
into the bars, restaurants and stores so any excuse to move it will do. But in reality
they’re out talking to the establishments in their areas all the time. They don’t wait for
National Beer Day or American Craft Beer Week; they’ll certainly try to take
advantage of it if they can but they’re out trying to move their products every week.
To be honest I’m not a big fan of all these “National” recognition days. Did you know
June 1st is National Donut Day, you probably saw that being promoted by someone.
In reality they’re all just marketing ploys to get us to spend our money on their
product or service. Do I need to be reminded to buy a donut; won’t I just do it when I
feel like having one?

Back to our topic, American Craft Beer Week.  I guess it’s a nice idea and could be a
good promotion, but to us craft beer lovers isn’t every week American Craft Beer
Week??  It certainly is for me, unless of course I happen to be traveling to a foreign
country at which point I’m really NOT looking for American beers; I’m looking to try the
local product and expand my horizons. And maybe this week isn’t really aimed at us
anyway, since we’re already there.

The dilemma for the Brewers Association, as I see it, is not getting to those of us who
already know, but to the casual beer drinker and the staunch mega beer drinker.
Craft is not growing at same pace and the mega brews beer sales are down, with
cocktails and wines on the increase, but there is still great opportunity for craft beer
sales to increase. Maybe The Brewers Association needs some help? I could gather
a panel of the learned BeerNexus contributors to sit around and brainstorm some
ideas, over a few beers of course. They really probably want a lot less input and a lot
more free publicity, which maybe this article is a little late in accomplishing. I guess we’
ll all have to wait till next year to see what the focus of American Craft Beer week is.

Ok so when’s the next excuse, oh I mean Beer Day for me to go out and sample
some wares???

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

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