Friday, March 12, 2010

A Review of Craft Beer Numbers

Sorry, even more diversions from Big Beer Week(s). I know. But bear with me for a bit and we'll get back to that. The most recent Industry numbers were released and I wanted to go over them with you.

In 2009 the US added 57 new breweries, all of which are considered "craft breweries" by the Brewer's Association. We won't really get into what the BA considers to be a "craft" brewery, that is a horse that has been flogged long after it was dead.

In an absolutely dreadful economy, craft beer still managed to produce 7.2% more beer and 10.3% more dollars than 2008. This is despite an overall decline in the general beer market of 2.2% and a decline in imports by 9.8%. Craft beer now represents 4.3% of the volume share for beer, and 6.9% of the beer dollars.

I'd be interested to see those numbers broken out by region. I suspect that we here in the Midwest drink far more than 4.3% of the volume of our beer in craft beer. Here in Wisconsin I'd think that number would be even higher, possibly well over 10%. That's just based on empirical evidence, I have no numbers to back me up. But, consider the success of Spotted Cow here in Wisconsin. If you are in the rest of the Midwest consider the ubiquity of breweries such as Great Lakes, Bells, Goose Island, and Summit. These are all craft breweries. You'd be hard pressed to find a bar anywhere in the Midwest that doesn't have at least one tap, let alone bottles, dedicated to one of those.

But we can do better. And we should be doing better. I spoke with Kirby Nelson, Brewmaster at Capital Brewery, and he related a tale of visiting Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He went into a local bar and noticed that there was no Point on-tap. How can a bar in Stevens Point, Wisconsin not serve Point Beer on tap? How can a bar in Spring Green not carry Furthermore? How can a bar in La Crosse not carry Pearl Street? And on down the line.

One tap is not enough. Because that tap is going to be Spotted Cow. That's a given. But craft needs two or three or four or five taps. And, no, Miller Beer's Leinenkugel brand doesn't count. You'd be hard-pressed to find a corner of this state that does not have a true craft brewery in it. We all have local breweries. Support them. They employ your neighbors and put tax dollars in to your schools.

4 comments:

  1. I could not agree more. Every damn bar should have at least 2 or 3 beers brewed from within 100 miles. Who is at fault? Solitary bars? Distributors? Brewers? A combination?

    The whole palate of beer choices, from light to dark, sweet, bitter, sour and everything in between, can all be found within our borders. To be blessed with such bounty, but then not be able to easily find such beers, is a horrible irony.

    But we're coming along. The beers are here at least, where they once were not. Now they just need to spread far and wide.

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  2. I was recently in a "neighborhood" bar where my choice of craft on tap was Capital Amber or Leinenkugel's 1888 Bock. We have some of the most impressive craft breweries here and *that* was all they had. Was a shame, really.

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  3. I fully agree that the bars should at least try to have a couple beers from the local breweries, simply to build awareness and support local businesses. But the emphasis on having it on tap is, in my opinion, a bit misplaced.

    First of all, I've lived up in that area, and have had lousy luck with tap beers. More often than not, the smaller bars up there just don't maintain their lines properly, so tap beer ends up tasting like crud.

    Secondly, tap lines are, in many bars, a very limited commodity. 3-5 tap lines is not an uncommon sight. The owners need to put what sells on those taps. If almost every other bar in Stevens Point sells Point beer, maybe they have better luck putting something different out there to draw people in. I'd rather have a neighboorhood bar with macros on tap and a few craft bottles, then have the bar go under because they were trying to tell the customers what they wanted, rather than the other way around.

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  4. I think the problem is distributors, owners, and patrons!

    I think most bars that exist just to "own a bar" rather than for the actual quality of the product just tell the distributor "I want 4 taps and 10 bottles of whatever will sell the best."

    The distributor then takes the 14 beers that are the most common. This way they don't have to stock their trucks with much of that "weird beer", and they can make more profits by buying more of crap domestic beer and crap "imports".

    The patrons are then at fault because people like familiarity in general. Applebee's and Olive Garden make bland, flavorless food, but it is consistently bad no matter which one you go to and that's what most people like. Since the patrons are familiar with those 14 crap beers the distributor puts on, they feel at home and have no problem ordering something.

    And thus the viscous cycle continues. People that read MBR probably don't fall into this category however, but as of now we are in the minority.

    Personally the only things I really drink are seasonals and latest releases from local breweries.

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