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Craft (perspective as it relates to beer - NPR)


John McKee

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Good morning all,

I attended the Craft Beverage Expo last week and there were some great sessions on craft as an industry. I thought I'd share some observations:

  • Wine doesn't care about trying to define what craft is....any wine really. They usually market style, vine ages, etc, but not really in who produces it, bottles it, etc. In fact, some of them looked pretty bemused by Craft Beer and Craft Distilling issues on the fact.
  • The brewery session, led by the founders of Brooklyn Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Russian River, and Allagash all had interesting points, but noted that the Craft Brewing industry is constantly changing its definition to accommodate rather than exclude members. Some in their industry discount the benefit, while others have adopted the "raising tide lifts all ships" approach.
  • Great point made by the Craft Brewers, was that it was great that major breweries were trying to capitalize on the craft movement because that was sending more attention into the market of craft as a whole....which only benefits the craft brewers in their opinion.

Saw this article over the same week, thought I'd share. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/05/09/310803011/as-craft-beer-starts-gushing-its-essence-gets-watered-down

All in all, the insight I took away from this event's discussions on craft was that our industry is way behind wine and beer at defining itself (which is to be expected considering our industry youth). However, I also took to heart the accommodate rather than exclude approach. Our infighting as an industry to define craft is a detriment to all of our common pursuits. We will never get TTB to define it. We will never get big distilleries to stop using the phrases craft, artisan, etc. And while we infight, it only winds up taking away from all that is great about what we all do.

Cheers,

McKee

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Hear, hear!

Be proud of what you do, and the others doing it with you! I'm all for sentiments like these, and cooperation and humility only benefits us.

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Agreed. I'm more in the "rising tide raises all boats" camp. My general concern is when the industry will reach a limit of craft distilleries and the novelty will wear off. For example (I'll pick a city at random), if you're the first distiller in Baltimore that makes gin and you go to sell to a Baltimore bar that has Tangueray, Plymouth and Beefeater on its shelf, you stand a good chance of getting stocked and maybe promoted by bartenders. You're the local gin. My concern is when there are 3 or 4 local gins, do they all just get lost in the shuffle (no one is THE local guy) and will consumers gravitate to the big brands. Obviously, the market share of craft distillers is still so comparatively low that market any decent market penetration is a huge plus but I think the challenge is having the consumer buy into "craft spirits are better" or at least different enough to be routinely purchased. Even though I understand microbrews are still only a small part of the market share, at least by my observations, they seem to have sold consumers on the quality of their collective products to stake a foothold.

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The NPR article points out some chinks in the one big happy family story in craft brewing. Wilmer is a good example of the craft brewers changing their definition to exclude some who are arguably craft producers as compared to some, AB InBev owns a chunk of Widmer's parent company and are therefore excluded from the craft moniker. There are brewing giants such as Boston Brewing, who until recently was mostly produced under contract by Miller-Coors, for who the craft brewers changed their definition to keep Boston Beer from loosing their craft title and the subsequent big excise tax break. Maybe the wine folks got it right, judge my craft by the quality in the bottle. Once small distillers are numerous enough to be a political force we need to exert political pressure for a small producer excise tax relief just like what big brewers like Boston beer, Sierra Nevada and new Belgium get today.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For what it's worth- I believe that reaching the "bubble" is not a bad thing...I believe this weeds out the bad.

Competition produces something better; consistency/quality/service rise to the top and will always continue to grow, (unless stunted by incompetence).

If it was easy everyone would do it...

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