Friday, August 15, 2014

We Topped 3,000 Breweries and Some Aren't Happy

You're getting sleeeeeepy...
Earlier this month, the Brewers Association announced that we surpassed 3,000 breweries in the US. This seemed like pretty awesome news to me. So I was a little intrigued when I saw this article on Bon Appétit the other day with the title "America Now Has Over 3,000 Craft Breweries—and That's Not Necessarily Great for Beer Drinkers." I figured it was just going to be some sort of ironic hipster article about how PBR is the only beer that America really needed. Instead, to my dismay, it was a serious post about how America really has too many breweries for it's own good.

The basic premise of the article is that there will be too much competition in the craft beer industry. Sam Calagione is quoted saying, "We're heading into an incredibly competitive era of craft brewing. There’s a bloodbath coming." (Their emphasis.) I wasn't aware that competition was a bad thing for consumers. I actually thought that competition was the basic premise of why we have the craft beer industry to start with.

Wickedly disappointing. 
The article points this out nicely for us later on. Discussing the "fickleness" of the American beer-drinker the author writes, "When I was in high school, Red Wolf and Pete's Wicked Ale were the rage. Remember them? Probably not." You know why no one remembers them? Because they sucked.

I also remember around that same time when Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Anchor Steam were all the rage. Remember them? Oh wait--they're still two of the bestselling craft beers in the country. And it's because they're great beers. American craft beer drinkers aren't fickle--they're ruthlessly discerning. Tastes do change slowly over time, but the bottom line is that if your beer isn't good, it's going to get eaten by the competition. I fail to see how this is a bad thing.

The only other evidence given for having too many breweries is that the craft drinkers will be confused by all the new brews. This makes some pretty big assumptions about American craft beer drinkers. First, it assumes that craft beer drinkers are uneducated about their choices. Second, it assumes that all of these 3,000 breweries are on the tap list when you're trying to order your beer.

If there's a bloodbath coming, Colorado is on
the front lines. Better call Jed and his buddies.
With 3,000 breweries, America is sitting at about one brewery per 106,000 people. For a little frame of reference, Colorado has one brewery per 24,000 people. When was the last time you heard someone from Colorado complaining about having too many breweries?

If you have a wealth of great local and regional breweries, you don't have to rely on hard to find specialty beers from far-flung breweries. Instead, you can pop down to the local brew pub on a Tuesday night to drink that fantastic beer while shooting the shit with the brewer at the bar. More breweries means more good local breweries to choose from.

I think other bars should take a cue from Green Room and put a greater focus on local and regional beers. Mike has over 100 beers there, and 90% or more are from Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, or Nebraska. There's no need to be an expert in beers from the east and west coast when you know where to find the fantastic local beers.

Here's one more thing that Bon Appétit seems to have missed: in 1871, there was one brewery per 9,300 people in America. That corresponds to 34,000 breweries with today's population. Too many breweries? Not by a long shot.

6 comments:

  1. 1. Who reads Bon Apetit? 2. Is the dipshit who wrote this Bon Apetit article aware that there are over 8,000 wineries in the US today? Is this bad for the American consumer that we no longer pick up a jug of Gallo swill and instead can spend 30 minutes looking for a particular Meritage? 3. When can I kick this author's ass? 4. Competition in a burgeoning market can only mean good things for beer drinkers. 5. Who the F-bomb gets confused by new beer from new breweries? 6. Srsly...when can I kick this douchebag back into reporting about green beans where he belongs.

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  2. Joshua M. Bernstein, who is obviously a commie because he hates the free market.

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  3. Do I really get to make two Red Dawn references in one day??

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  4. If you love us you will.

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  5. The argument that we will eventually hit a saturation point with breweries is valid. Recent years have been quite easy for craft brewers - the small, premises-only shops can't open fast enough, and the big regional players can't expand fast enough. The end of that is probably coming sooner than people think, and this is not great news for those aspiring to make beer for a living.


    However, for the beer drinker, saturation is not a bad thing. The breweries making bad beer - and my work travel has taken me to many such taprooms - will be forced to improve quality or get out of the business. Either way, better beer for us.

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  6. We still lag behind the traditional beer drinking countries of the world. Jay quotes 3000+ breweries, but apparently that number could go up by 50% within the next year?

    http://www.brewersassociation.org/insights/how-many-breweries-can-us-take/

    http://www.nbwa.org/brewery-permits-top-4500-for-first-six-months-of-2014



    A chicken in every pot, a local brewery on every corner. The American dream!

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