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?
— L Allen (@L_AllenH) November 17, 2013
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.
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?