The Craft Brew Explosion: Friend or Trend
by Clay Moore
Like Betty White, craft beer is everywhere. From the recent success of
Brew Masters and Beer Wars, to the tons of craft beers and beer bars
popping up all over the place, what was once a sub-culture has now
broken into the mainstream. With word that Whole Foods is selling
home brew supplies, craft beer has exploded on the scene.
And that bugs me a little.
I've already heard stories of liquor stores being hounded for a beer called
"Dogfish Head" and I've had friends who enjoy light beer attend beer
festivals. Uh oh, here we go.
So is this good or bad? I'll give you my two cents since you asked.
Overall, it might be good if it's done right.
A. The Good
The increase in craft beer popularity should undoubtedly trickle down to
local restaurants, and this can be viewed as positive. Chances are that
distributors will start to supply even more brands of craft beers at liquor
stores, and the Big 3, who control most everything, may finally concede
that the customer really knows that it wants -- and it's not triple hopped.
Hopefully all menus will finally remove the phrase "micro-brew."
Closest to my heart, maybe some will gain insight into the passion
associated with craft beer and realize that it's not just something you
drink. It's something you talk about, write about, read about, make and
drive out of your way for. It's the reason folks will hop a train to Philly
Beer Week or take a plane to Denver for GABF.
B. The Bad
For the craft beer veteran, it's likely that you will be sitting around at a
party or happy hour while someone fills your ear about all these "new"
beers. Just grin and bear it until such time that the person
fancies themselves an expert, at which time you may
appropriately join the conversation.
I must admit that I get annoyed when people ignore things that have been
staring them in the face for years. Having had my first Brooklyn Brown in
1995, I was spoiled, but it still makes me smile to say "I told you so."
In fact, I don't mind the beer snob comments from friends.
I'd prefer beer enlightened though.
Upscale bars are already boasting about their 50 taps and 450 bottles. Oh
boy, I can't wait to have a $45 entree with my Breakfast Stout while
I rub elbows with a second generation iPad.
C. The [Potentially] Ugly
If craft brew continues to take off, I do hope that those in control of the
goods don't forget what kept them going long before this was all cool: (1)
the few quality beer bars who weren't afraid to put unknowns on draft
before it was in and (2) the regulars who support them. If the pie gets
smaller while demand increases, the potential for the good guys
(and gals) to be shut out in favor of trendy chains and start ups exists.
If that occurs, then Houston, we really do have a problem.
All cynicism aside, I'll try my best to be supportive of those
staring out into the wild beer yonder.
Unless of course, you are in my seat, at which point, please take your
inside scarf and step away from the Imperial IPA.
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