Craft Beer Growth?

Right now is a time where all in the beer world is golden. Some even say its recession proof. Your neighbor, who used to only drink American made lagers or fancy imported beers whose names you cannot pronounce, is jumping into the game; opening a brewery simply because it is a great investment. There is even a chance that your favorite brewery has reached capacity and now has to make the ultimate decision; Stop where we are and let our product and fans speak volumes for our business. Or take route number two and expand, increase production, or even move to a secondary location.

Several breweries are at that point now and both decisions have been made. Both Russian River and Hill Farmstead took the ‘stop where we are at’ route. Some are disappointed by this decision, but others respect it and understand what it will do for their local market or the quality of their beer in the future. On the other hand, there are the breweries, such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and even potentially Deschutes that are expanding and bringing their beers into new markets as they do. Some people complain about what this is doing to the local beer scene, even though New Belgium stated they did not want to interfere, and others are excited to finally get their hands on beers that were nothing but a rumor… Then there’s me.

I have gone across many places in this country for work, enjoyment, and as you suspected, craft beer. I travel not only for the love, but for the fact that I cannot find what I want where I live. Sure, you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. What makes this even sadder is the fact that I live in North Carolina; home to a number of great breweries and the new location of some of the big shots.

As you know, Oskar Blues is already in town, Sierra Nevada is months away from completion and New Belgium has plans to be open and in production next year. With all the beer these guys are known for, and the big shots from North Carolina, you’d think I’d be set… WRONG!

Okay, sure. I get Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and similar beers from other major breweries. But nothing beyond that and a few seasonals. A funny thing, I went into a local store to see if I could find Celebration Ale. You know what I found? Summerfest… IN NOVEMBER! I really don’t remember seeing Summerfest during the summer. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough but there’s no excuse. I have contacted other breweries about similar incidents in the past. Is there some reason this is happening?

While there is great choice and variety in the United States, it only goes as far as consumers will allow it. In this case, I am not even sure it is the consumers fault. On one of my beer-scapades, I drove up to a favorite bottle shop of mine, Bottle Revolution, and asked them about their distributors and beer availability. I was informed that where I live is kind of a grey area for beer in the state. Distributors don’t even consider ordering or sending much craft beer to the area. This is shocking to me being there are two well established homebrew clubs and over 350,000 people living in this “small” area.

Granted, not all of them are known craft beer drinkers, or even of age but part of this population is a military base. With people from all over the country, some of whom, have a certain expectation for the beer that they drink. One of the two homebrew clubs was actually set up and ran by service members who cannot get the beer they want. The members come and go as they enter and leave the area. But the passion and love for craft beer stays. So there IS a market.

I really don’t know how to explain it but I’ve lived in similar areas before. There are always one or two local craft breweries within a few miles and they make a name for themselves. But for the everyday consumer, i.e. not the obsessed craft beer nerd, unless you were going there for dinner, why do you care? You aren’t buying their beer when you go to the grocery store and you aren’t sharing it with your friends.

I hear about all this growth and I’m truly excited to see the companies grow… but what does it mean for my town? Nothing? Is it going to be just the same as it was before? Even when it comes to “local” options, I can only get a select few because even those breweries are looking for more lively and thriving markets. No one wants to try an untapped market; they stick to pre-established ones. That doesn’t make sense to me, but what can I do? I make decisions based on what beers or breweries I feel are worth it. Nearly 2500 breweries across the country and the selection, not to mention rotation, in my local stores would not make any enthusiast happy.

Only 18 months old and outdated

I know there is interest, but what is it going to take? Who do I have to talk to in order to bring awareness and better products into my area? I am not even talking about the major, regional brewers right now. What’s it going to take to get a brewer from Charlotte, approximately 120 miles away, to sell their beer where I live? They ship further East than me, as well as further North. Why not here?


Craft Beer Growth?

4 thoughts on “Craft Beer Growth?

  1. Damn … I just typed up a comment to this post and it disappeared when I tried to submit it. I had it worded perfectly. It was awesome (in my humble opinion).

    I won't be able to replicate my brilliance … but It was something like this …

    Personally, I would say 90% of the beer I drink comes straight off the tap in the tasting room of the brewery in which it was brewed. I don't really care if I cannot get an out-of-market beer. Yes, I keep a lookout for some of the “popular” stuff, but if I never see it, I don't really care. Quite often, when I find it, I am disappointed because the hype built up the beer, and I feel a local, fresh beer of a similar style is usually (ie … almost ALWAYS) more enjoyable.

    Of course, I don't have the problem you mentioned about the brewery 120 miles away from you. If a brewery is that close and it actually distributes, I will be able to find it in the Denver Metro area somewhere. But if a brewery in a tiny little mountain town doesn't get that beer to my liquor store, I'm fine waiting until I can make it to that mountain town. Even if I do see it in the liquor store, I find that I always prefer it on tap in the brewery anyway.

    To me, the very fact that you were able to find SN Summerfest… IN NOVEMBER at your liquor store is argument enough to skip the liquor store completely and sample the tiny little local breweries only.

    Anyway, trust me, the first time I typed this up, it was much better. 🙂 Hope it takes this time.

    Go Broncos!


  2. I am sure it was a good post. Most of your responses usually are!! I don't know why things get lost, but you know.

    I would love for the majority of the beer I drink to be actually on location, in their tap rooms, but for the breweries I am seeking this isn't really possible. Even with the local ones they are fine, but the atmosphere and all just does not work sometimes.

    One of the locations turns into a night club after a certain hour. I guess it is good for business, given this town, but that is a whole different crowd.

    The other has a fantastic restaurant, very pricey, but some of their beers leaves me wanting more. Neither of these two distribute.

    I have to travel pretty far to get to the NC Beers that are known far and wide. There is a place that is only 30 miles away from me but they don't distribute in out town. They are working to get into local shops but that can take some time. They are hoping to be available soon…

    Where you live, it is easier to just be able to grab anything. I did not necessarily mean limited release items above. I moreso meant beers other than the completely comon selection… maybe that does not make sense…

    Ok, let me put it this way. I have to drive up to Raleigh to buy a New Belgium Folly Pack. Something you would never think twice about. It is probably in every store you walk into, whether you notice it or not. Surprisingly we have been getting them in for the past few releases. Not every one but it blew my mind and I sent out massive tweets when they showed up.

    Like you, I much prefer to go on location to try beers. Especially the first time. But a lot is just not close or available to me. That is the problem. And for the bigger breweries, I get the case of the Summerfest. I see their normal offerings on the shelf, i.e. the Pale Ale and Torpedo that are in that photo, but who knows how long there were there? I know those beers are going to be good regardless, but seeing them next to a beer that was released over 6 months ago is a major turnoff.

    The only brand that seems to move quickly is Samuel Adams. Local options included. Good for them. Bad for me. But I feel they have a different share of the market. I am sure you understand what I mean. I enjoy quite a few of their beers but they are never really my first choice… Except Oktoberfest. OH YES!!!


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