As most of you are aware, I am not from Wisconsin. I am from most of the entire area of Northern Ohio. Born in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, raised in Mansfield, lived on the East and West sides of Cleveland, college in Toledo and Akron. But, I spent my formative years, the years between the ages of 2 and 15 in Mansfield, Ohio.
Mansfield is an industrial wasteland, a brief layover and spot to hide-out for drug dealers running from the law in Cleveland (1 hour North of Mansfield), Columbus (1 hour South of Mansfield), and Akron (1 hour East of Mansfield). It is similar to Janesville, Wisconsin in that GM also had a plant there that they shut down there - not to mention manufacturing facilities for Tappan, Westinghouse, and Mansfield Tire and Rubber. It is the county seat of an otherwise rural county. It is, approximately, the dividing line between Northern Ohio and Southern Ohio, with most residents choosing to side with the gun-toting, southern drawling, race baiting, NASCAR-loving, John Boehner-voting, redneck part of the state (i.e., everything South of Mansfield, Ohio). But, it's home, and I still have family that live there.
It is a place where Budweiser and Miller have not just a hold on the market like everywhere, but a place where bar patrons actually get in fights over which is awesomer, Bud or Miller. Grocery stores provide a wonderful choice of 30-packs of Bud, Bud Light, Bud Ice, Bud Ice Light, Bud Select, Bud Ale, Miller Chill, etc., etc., etc.
And Great Lakes.
So, imagine my surprise when my Google Alert for "Beer" results in an article from hometown newspaper the Mansfield News Journal. It is a terrible paper, it always has been. The actual reporting that goes on the News Journal is AP re-writes at best. But, apparently, they actually have a beer columnist - Mr. Steve Goble, a copy editor and self-appointed "beer snob". His column is called "Brewologist" (what does that even mean?). The article that came up in my alert is called "How Awesome is Colorado Craft Beer? Really Awesome? Or Super Awesome?"
So, you're probably asking yourself why I'm writing all of this deeply personal, resentful, silly things about people and places that you neither care about nor have any interest in. And the answer is simple: because it's my blog and I can do what I want. Actually, no, that's not why.
There's two really interesting things about this article in an over-arching theme sort of way.
First, a craft beer column in Mansfield, Ohio. Freaking Mansfield, Ohio has a beer columnist. That has got to be some sort of milestone in the metrics used by the Brewers Association to determine penetration of craft beer in the minds of Americans. If Mansfield, Ohio is drinking craft beer, the "education" and "market introduction" days are over.
It is officially time to welcome in the era of Growth for the craft beer industry. Classic indicators of the Growth stage are increased competition in the space, price competition among entrants, and increased distribution outside of the core customer base. We can officially assume that most consumers know about the product and are now searching for distinctions between competing products.
Second, I'm about sick and tired of hearing about how Colorado beer (and Oregon and California, for that matter) is so freaking awesome. Like anywhere else, Colorado has some great breweries. But Colorado also has really terrible breweries and many mediocre breweries (such as Boulder Beer's Hazed and Confused - the subject of the article). For some reason, they all insist on distributing outside of Colorado, though. Maybe because New Belgium rules Colorado with such an iron fist that they are all tired of fighting for New Belgium's scraps.
But it's also why Wisconsin breweries need to look at this and learn some lessons. Yes, I understand the "don't grow too fast" argument, but these mediocre Colorado breweries are making in-roads in the Midwest because they are stretching themselves a little bit and beating our own breweries to the shelves. Journalists in Mansfield, Ohio are writing about Colorado beer, not Wisconsin beer, or Indiana beer, or Illinois beer, or Minnesota beer.