Last night I was triggered to writing this post. I haven’t wanted to post for ages because my observations of the craft beer market had become progressively more negative. So after being told last night that Epic beer was shit and it would never get on tap I thought why not share some observations.
Where to start?
The monster we are all responsible for. If we go back 20 years or so, craft beer came about because of the endless sea of industrial lager beers post World War II. There was no real diversity available in the beer market. Which is why Guinness became such a successful global brand.
So from the early 1980’s craft breweries very slowly started to open and to brew beers that tasted different from mainstream lagers. Then came the American Pale Ales. This is where this all started. People had this incredible experience, called flavour. WOW, I didn’t know beer could smell or taste like that.
So for years people happily drank pale ales, because they were different from the mainstream lagers. As more people drank these new flavourful beers a few would say I reckon I could open a brewery and make a great beer like that too. But my beer will have a bit more hops in it.
Then the American IPA hit the market, WOW! You have gotta try this because it has even more aroma and flavour than those Pale Ales we have been drinking. A bunch more people thought I reckon I could open a brewery and make IPA’s which everyone loves to drink. But I’ll make mine a bit more hoppy.
IPA’s were the new thing, and everyone was drinking them. There were more and more breweries making IPA’s so it was a golden age, as everyone loved hoppy beer.
It wasn’t long before the Double IPA came along, and you know what, everyone was like WOW!! These are the best beers ever. A whole bunch more people said I reckon I could brew a Double IPA, but I will make mine more hoppy.
Hold on. These new brewers found that you couldn’t really add any more hops, and there were now so many IPA’s and Double IPA’s on the market that it was really hard to stand out. Best we try something else.
Some tried making sour beers, some added fruit to their IPA’s, some even just took hazy, yeasty, hoppy tank samples and sold them. WOW!!! everyone loved them. It was something new. Everyone loves NEW.
We have now in a cycle of new for the sake of new. New equals good. Beer isn’t about beer any longer. Beer is about new. A new label. A new can. A new tap badge. Just new.
New, new, new, new, new, new, new.
We live in interesting times. Why are people looking for new? What is missing in their lives? Why can’t they be happy with a really great beer? So many great beers are being released as a new one off seasonal beers, never to be made again.
Will these seasoned craft beer fans get bored of beer, and start looking for something else? Wine is always new? Every year there is a new vintage, and there are thousands of wines to try. What about spirits? How many cocktails are there to discover.
That there is the craft beer drinker dilemma.
What about the brewers? What are they doing? On the treadmill of having to come up with new beers on a more and more frequent basis, looking for the next beer style, the next crazy ingredient to add to their beer.
With an ever-increasing number of breweries, coming out with an ever increasing number of beers how can these beers get sold? There aren’t enough taps, or shelf space to move everything.
So what is a brewery to do? They make a batch of beer, they can sell a bit of it, but after a couple of weeks, outlets might say what else have you got that’s new? The brewery says but you haven’t stocked this beer, and your customers haven’t tried it yet. Yeah, but they might have tried it somewhere else. What else is new?
The brewery now has an issue, with the beer that isn’t new any longer. How do they sell it. Well, one way is to give the outlet an incentive. What might this be? Maybe a tshirt, some glassware, some free stock, or a discount on the beer.
Oh, that discount thing worked pretty well. Cool, the beer is now sold. Interestingly though the outlet didn’t put the price down. Lucky outlet they got some not new beer cheaper and made a better margin.
Next batch of new beer and the brewery is stuck moving all the beer. Ahh discount it, that worked. Cool.
Next batch, the outlet wants a discount straight up. So the whole batch is now discounted. Oh no.
Then the outlet starts going “cool, I can get discounted beer,” and make more margin. But the discounted beer isn’t always the best, and the reason that it isn’t selling is because no one wants to drink it.
Now the outlet has a problem. So they discount the beer. The beer drinker goes cool, I am getting some new beer at a good price.
It takes a while but the beer drinker becomes more educated over time, and realizes what off flavours or faulted beer tastes like, and buying discounted beer isn’t satisfying.
But they still want something new.
Smart brewer comes up with a plan. I need to be able to sell this whole batch of new, if I had my own taps that no one else can sell their beer through then I can sell it all. I’ll offer the bar some money to by the taps.
Now the brewer is winning here. And maybe the bar for a period of time because they just got a chunk of cash. What if the beer is not to the tastes of the customers in that bar? The bar might now have a tap with very slow selling beer. They may have been better off not selling the tap and putting beer through the taps that the customers actually want to drink.
OK that is all I have now. Just some observations that are interesting.
(note: this is a first draft, and there are likely to be errors)