It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
We’re about to enter a new year so I’d like to take a moment to thank you for all your insight
even if I win every one of these discussions. I don’t care if some people say you’re like that
team that the Harlem Globetrotters always beat, Oh, just teasing of course. I really do enjoy
our conversations and look forward to many more of them here at BeerNexus and over a few
pints at our local pub.
If I step back and take a look at craft beer this past year it’s clear that the industry growth has
slowed though it’s still in positive territory. As you know the number of U.S. breweries
continues to reach new heights and that gets me worrying if that expansion will overtake
growth and result in closed breweries everywhere. In another words will 2020 be the beginning
of end of the Golden Era of craft beer?
My answer to that question is a big "NO" mainly because of quality. I have never seen so many
top-notch beers in the marketplace. Brewers are excelling at their craft. They make, ship and
pour a wide variety of products that do not disappoint. Back in the day Founders KBS and
CBS were rarities to seek out despite their inflated prices. Now they’re easily found on many
store shelves at a fair if still not reasonable price. And if you don't want them there are many,
yes many, other BBA Imperial Stouts equally good at lower prices some of which are from
those small local breweries you and I like so much.
As I see it, you and I plus all beer drinkers have been winners this past year. In a way we’re
spoiled with a diverse abundance of high-quality beer. Exploring it all has become its own
consumer lifestyle as well we know. The best part of it all is that as palates expand, improve
and change, brewers have reacted with new takes on old styles. While we’ll still have those
hazy IPAs and barrel aged brews forever it’s clear that newer alternatives have also emerged
and taken hold. To me that's why we so enjoy being craft beer drinkers.
On the downside, sometimes I wonder if there are just too many good beers out there for the
good of the industry. I’m willing to guess that even you Bill, one of the most knowledgeable
craft fans I know, may no longer recognize half the brands available. Competition is becoming
more concentrated which is something craft brewers must be aware of in this new year. More
than ever they will need to be hyper focused on consumer trends and look to innovate on
these insights. In the past it was just make good beer and the people will come. That’s no
longer the case as I see it.
Lastly, my one admonition to all craft drinkers is to have a new year in which they continue to
support and stay local to their local craft breweries. They are the onces who started it all and
remain the backbone of the craft revolution.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
I do admit to finishing second a few times in our debates. In fact I've found that even when you
aren't right you're never wrong especially when you pick up the tab at our local pub. Seriously,
it's been a fun year and I'm ready to continue our "duel". I take heart in knowing that even the
Washington Generals beat the Globetrotters once (though they did lose over 16,000 times).
You're of course right in that this past year we've seen creative takes on many standard beer
styles. I've found many of these unique brews outstanding while a few were undrinkable. They
all however have contributed to keeping the spirit of craft beer alive and flourishing. As for
there being too many breweries when is the last time you heard someone say there are too
many fast food hamburger places out there or too many readers of our column?
In the past we've talked about the fact that modern consumers are less brand loyal than ever.
They, like us, enjoy experimenting across a wide variety of brands, styles and categories. While
some see that as a detriment I think that is what will fuel the continued expansion of small local
breweries to the dismay, and perhaps the demise, of regional and larger ones.
One thing that craft breweries should give a bit more attention to in this new year is winning over
more of the ‘macro’ drinkers. I see that as the best and simplest way to increasing craft beer
market share. And they can't ignore the hard fact that other alcoholic categories - did I hear
you say cider and seltzer? - are the biggest dangers to craft growth and not the maco brewers..
More approachable flavor profiles with lower ABVs seem the way to do it. We won't drink them
but many will.
I do worry that some craft brewers are pricing themselves out of the market place. I've see four
packs of beer from your hometown of Brooklyn go for up to $25 and many times more on the
"grey" market. Not only that but can you explain why it is sometime less expensive to buy a beer
on draft at a bar than it is to have the same beer in the brewery's tasting room? Breweries have
to understand there's a limit to what the market will bear or the consumer will see it all as one
big ripoff. I recently had a 750ml bottle of a bourbon barrel imperial stout from J. Wakefield.at a
tasting and while it was outstanding it wasn't worth it's $75 price tag (don't worry I didn't pay for
it).Some breweries will price themselves out of existence and find a way to blame the consumer
Finally on behalf of Gina and myself let me thank all our readers for joining us here each
month. We have a great time writing these columns and hope you enjoyed reading them.
Here's looking at you, Gina.