What’s with all of this beer now?
You’ve seen it. You go down the aisles of your grocery store, you hit the beer aisle with its glowing refrigerated cases, seeking out your go-to beverage, and… “What the what!?!” Instead of 10 craft beer options hanging out in a corner down from the rows and rows of American Industrial Lager cases, you see a bazillion different beers from a gazillion different breweries, most of which you’ve never heard of, in styles that didn’t exist last week. Since when was there so much bloody beer to choose from!?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. We’re probably living in a golden age of craft beer. Every week a new brewery opens and we’re getting more and more options to try. One person would be hard-pressed to sample every beer made by every brewery in his own state without developing a series of health issues. Variety is good, and I’m glad we have it.
But is it sustainable?
Heck if I know. Beer-conomics is not my field of expertise, and even if it was, I probably couldn’t guarantee any answer I gave to that question was accurate. But if I’ve learned anything from existence in 21st Century America, it’s that when you’re in search of an answer, you go to a TV personality with dubious credentials.
There’s apparently a show about rescuing failing bars, and it’s hosted by John Taffer, a big, loud dude who does the drill instructor routine to bar owners to get their businesses back on track — all on TV for your entertainment, of course. In a recent article for Cheers Magazine, he said this:
“Craft beer has created a culture, not a trend. A trend grabs market share and then disappears and gives it back. A culture grabs market share and then keeps it. The craft-beer culture isn’t going anywhere in America.”
“That said, I think that about 60 percent of craft beer basically sucks. I’ve been to a lot of the facilities. They’re not exactly clean. They’re rookie-run. The problem is that people are now looking at craft beer as an investment opportunity. They’re getting into it to make money. Many people don’t get into it for the love of making beer. Of course, that’s not how it began. Jim Koch founded Boston Beer because he loves to make beer. But today, it’s much more in the investment space.”
“That’s why I think there’s going to be a wash out in craft beer over the next two years. Half of the craft breweries are going to disappear. And the word “craft” will become known more for spirits.”
Man. Those are dire words for those of us who have really enjoyed the amazing variety of beers available today. But is he right? Once again, I don’t know, but there is a ring of truth to his words, at least in part.
You have to admit, beers are getting a little nutty. I know, I know, “Calm your drawers, Grandpa. There’s a thing called evolution and you have to accept it.” I get it. But how many twists on the IPA do I need? Do I really need an English IPA, an American IPA, a West Coast IPA, an East Coast IPA, a New England IPA, a Milkshake IPA, a Black IPA, a Brown IPA? I could keep doing this, you know. And that’s just one style! Do we need all of that? Of course we don’t. And at what point does that catch up to all of the breweries who are churning this stuff out day after day? At what point will their sales fail to be supported by the latest gimmick, as consumers consolidate around a smaller amount of steady, reliable breweries? Or will endless “innovation” (a euphemism for constant gimmicking?) continue to support breweries?
Dudes and dudettes, I just don’t know. I hate to think of half of the wonderful people I’ve met in the craft beer industry losing their gigs. But I also worry that this amazing mushrooming of breweries is just too fantastic of a thing to keep up. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I suggest we all take advantage of it and drink as much of it as we can.