Everywhere in the world there are small and independent startup brewery entrepreneurs assessing their own circumstances and making decisions for their hopeful success. I get asked several questions about the decisions that beginning and developing craft brewers need to make. Here are a few of these questions:
- What did it take to gain momentum in the USA?
- Now that momentum has been achieved, what will the next phase for American craft look like?
- Should a brewery start small or big?
- What’s best? A packaging brewery or a brewpub/brewery-restaurant?
- What’s the success rate?
- How should the personality of a brand be developed?
- How are small breweries going to market their brands?
- When does advertising make sense?
Here is a briefing on my replies and what I’m thinking in a three-part series:
Contrary to some reports, American craft brewers are not an overnight success. There were many things that led to today’s perceived sudden success. Number one, the skill of the craft brewer has improved dramatically; access to information and other resources has resulted in high quality beer. Access to equipment, technology, quality ingredients and other supplies provided by the allied supporting industries has given rise to customized controls that enable craft brewers to both innovate and maintain tradition.
The education of the beer drinker has been a very long and tortuous road. It began as brewers had to educate beer drinkers before any momentum could be achieved.
The education of beer distributors, retail stores and restaurants, bars, pubs and the hospitality sector (hotels, etc) that sell beer also needed to learn the value that craft beer brought to their businesses.
Beer drinkers knew absolutely nothing about specialty beers in the early days of craft brewing. Without the education initiative craft would have never begun.
Fast forward to 2014/2015; suppliers, farmers, brokers, engineers, fabricators, bars, restaurants, culinary schools, hospitality institutions, beer distributors and even beer enthusiasts all have availed themselves to beer educational opportunities. They have embraced these learning opportunities and with the output of passion, energy, excitement and beer from craft breweries, momentum has been achieved. It takes more than a village, it takes a community.
The momentum began to be noticed about eight years ago (2006-7)
The next phase
What’s in store for American owned craft brewers? What’s the next phase? Craft brewers will need to be cautious and not rest on their accomplishments. Competition between small brewers will continue and increase, but at the same time they will continue to need each other. The very big international brewing corporations are incomprehensively large compared to even the largest of the American owned, small and independent breweries. Success and competition with each other cannot interfere with the continued collaboration and craft educational initiatives. Education never ends. The marketplace evolves. Challenges persist and new ones arise. Maintaining the momentum will require understanding of what it took to get where we are and a never ending effort to educate all participants in the craft beer community to the issues that challenge the very livelihood of small and independent brewers. Making sure misconceived regulations and legislation don’t put small brewers out of business or reduce beer drinker’s access to craft beer from small and independent craft brewers.
Innovation will continue to be paramount. The preservation of brewing traditions will also be important. In summary the challenge now is keeping up with the times and the new circumstances in which craft brewers find themselves.
to be continued…
Next: Starting a brewery? Big or small?
Why is American craft brewing happening?
Why craft is emerging in the rest of the world