There Are Reasons for Concern, however the Sky Isn’t Falling


All About Beer Magazine
Volume ,

July 16, 2018


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Smuttynose bought at public sale. Saratoga Brewing closed. Sales at Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada are down. The sky is falling!

Lagunitas bought, and its gross sales are up. Ballast Point bought, and its gross sales are up. Goose Island bought, and never solely is its beer in every single place, however beer geeks are nonetheless shopping for Bourbon County Brand Stout as if there was nothing traitorous and evil about that (yeah, that’s sarcasm). The world is turned the wrong way up!

Millennials aren’t ingesting as a lot beer. Generation Z is ingesting even much less. They’re each ingesting extra spirits, and wine, however they’re ingesting much less total. The Big Growth is over and can by no means return. Beer is threatened!

Everything is an IPA. IPAs are crowding out different beer kinds. Kettle sours are dragging down the sophistication of bitter beer. Hazy IPAs haven’t any shelf life and drive folks away from packaged beer. Beer shops might not survive!
Beer costs preserve going up. “Craft” brewers preserve promoting out, or merging, or taking up non-public fairness. The taproom mannequin is killing bigger brewers. Limited can releases are consuming up disposable beer revenue. Aluminum tariffs will make canned beer much more costly. Lower federal beer taxes are unhealthy optics within the present political local weather. The sky is falling!

Breathe, brothers and sisters. Grab a can, fill a glass, sit on the bar … and breathe, whereas Old Mister Lew tells a narrative.

Way again in 1996, beer was, wow, loopy. Growth had been round 40 %! It was slowing down, however you recognize, can’t keep that sizzling perpetually. Still, bunches of latest breweries had been opening, nearly a thousand, and established brewers had been shopping for greater kettles and tanks. New beers, new concepts, loopy names and labels. You might discover all kinds of beers, in additional locations on a regular basis. Beer was enjoyable, cool, and never simply in a frat boy, pyramid-of-empties approach. It was nice.

But there have been issues. Success attracted greed, and cash gushed into the area of interest with out a lot thought. The pace of enlargement meant breweries had been poorly deliberate, brewers had been poorly educated, and high quality management corners had been reduce, particularly in packaging. All these new beers overwhelmed a system that was used to 6 to 10 suppliers which may add a brand new bottle dimension each different 12 months.

The outcome: previous and/or unhealthy beer on cabinets and faucets, poor practices within the market. Eventually this led to breweries closing and gross sales of “microbrew” flatlining. Now, that’s not straightforward to substantiate, as a result of our definitions of what was within the area of interest and never within the area of interest had began to vary. We had increasingly conversations and arguments and even authorized battles about who was and who wasn’t a microbrewer, a craft brewer.

Stop me when all this sounds surprisingly acquainted. I imply, now we have rather more wholesaler consolidation now, the typical value of a pint or six-pack has gone up (like the whole lot else), the massive brewers have lastly woken up (it took the decline of sunshine beer to do it), and the whole lot’s transferring a lot, a lot quicker—but it surely seems lots like 1996 round right here.

What does that imply? I’m not utterly positive; if I had been, I’d be promoting this for lots more cash. But at a guess? The 12 months 2018 seems like simply one other bump within the highway, however not an finish to beer as we all know it. No, that is at most a correction, as is nearly each facet of catastrophe I checked above.

The important core of all of it, the small brewery phenomenon, is just not going away. There are half once more as many breweries in America than on the earlier top 130-odd years in the past, and the inhabitants is six instances as massive. Hell, there have been solely 38 states again then! It even seems prefer it did again then; numerous small breweries, largely serving their native areas, with some bigger exceptions, and a few even bigger that ship throughout the nation, even the globe.

Barring one other loopy experiment with Prohibition, that’s not collapsing utterly anytime quickly. Too many people have tried it and appreciated it. It jogs my memory of the cigar growth within the early ‘90s that peaked, “collapsed,” and resulted in a gentle market nearly thrice the dimensions of the place it was within the 1980s.

The IPA fascination? Sure, however nobody’s placing “IPA” on the blond ales led by the success of Firestone Walker’s 805, and nobody’s suggesting that the surge of curiosity in pilsners could be elevated if we known as them “intense pilsner ales.” It’s right here now, it would probably keep, but it surely’s not the whole lot.

Relax. The sky is just not falling. Breweries will shut. Some iconic breweries might shut. More will merge or be bought. It occurs. It occurs in different industries: distilleries change palms usually, they usually simply preserve making whiskey, and we preserve ingesting it.

So if the millennials drink stuff apart from beer? Why not be a part of them? I simply began ingesting aquavit, and it’s superior stuff. A little bit of competitors received’t damage. Might even make beer higher total, and that’s what that is all about.


Lew Bryson has been writing about beer for greater than 25 years and is the creator of Tasting Whiskey. On Twitter @LewBryson.

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