Has brewing finally jumped the shark?

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chudsonvt

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Yeah, I'm no market expert, but I don't feel a bubble coming either. One thing with craft beer is that there is a greater tendency for people to build up mixer packs rather than buying large quantities of the same thing over and over again. This means that the "pie" is broken up into many more (albeit smaller) pieces, which allows more brands.
My local Shaws supermarket actually has empty six packs just so that you CAN piece meal your own custom 6-pack of microbrewery beer for one flat rate.

Also, I was recently in Alaska and there were some stores that actually put together their own custom 6 packs. I bought one that was 6 different IPA's from 3 or 4 different Alaskan breweries. It is a great way to try more with less.
 
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alha

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My brother got one of those barrel style homebrew kits many years ago... they've been around a long time, I think you're just noticing this stuff more now that you're into it ;)
Definately a possibility, but the fact that it was at _Target_ of all places, lead me to that conclusion. I mean, where next, Macy's? Bed, Bath & Beyond? The mind boggles...
 

chudsonvt

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I mean, where next, Macy's? Bed, Bath & Beyond? The mind boggles...
Kohls carries lots of beer goodies these days. Unfortunately, most of the stuff they sell is made in China crap. I don't think I saw a Mr. Beer, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them there, next Christmas.
 

GilaMinumBeer

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dkennedy

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Definately a possibility, but the fact that it was at _Target_ of all places, lead me to that conclusion. I mean, where next, Macy's? Bed, Bath & Beyond? The mind boggles...
I have Bed Bath to thank for me getting into this...wife wanted curtains, I got a Mr Beer. I got bored with opening cans and the rest is history :mug:
 

xandersaml

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I agree with gometz; I think breweries, especially new ones, will be more local. Personally, I like that. I don't discount the fact that a start-up could become the next Samuel Adams or Sierra Nevada. I don't begrudge them a bit either. Drink up, Cheers!
 

SeraW

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I can help with one new point. At least here in SoCal, Walmart carrying Mr. Beer and Target carrying Brooklyn kits was new for 4th quarter. (Disclosure, my wife and I are retail services reps for toy maker Mattel and it was something we saw on the floors and back rooms.)

Edit to clarify, they weren't there last year in our area.
 

kenoglass

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Kohls carries lots of beer goodies these days. Unfortunately, most of the stuff they sell is made in China crap. I don't think I saw a Mr. Beer, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them there, next Christmas.
I saw Mr beer there this year .
 
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alha

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Not being said with any rude tone, but my mind boggles at how "unaware" you are.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond has been carrying Mr Beer for a while. They also sell Brooklyn Brewshop extract kits.

And,

http://www1.macys.com/shop/product/platinum-collection-beer-brewing-kit?ID=1721849
No offense taken, and apparently I don't get out enough. Man, I thought I was being facetious, turns out I didn't think far enough outside of the box. Mayne Ikea? Toys/Babies R Us? My local firearms dealer? lol I considered brewing to be somewhat a specialty endeavor, but I guess to me that sort of reinforces my thought, of jumping the shark. Maybe I am an elitist, but having it sold everywhere makes me feel that it's less 'special' or serious, or something. I know what I'm thinking, but can't seem to express it properly. Just my feeling, but that doesn't mean it's correct of course.
 

PlexVector

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I got several pages in and finally had to jump to here. My crystal "malt" ball says that the industry will evolve into brew pubs or rather brew restaurants and there will be even brew restaurant chains. And possibly all the Applebees, Olive gardens, and Golden Corrals will have nano breweries in each location. That means they will be hiring all us home brewers to run them. ;)
 

GrogNerd

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I got several pages in and finally had to jump to here. My crystal "malt" ball says that the industry will evolve into brew pubs or rather brew restaurants and there will be even brew restaurant chains. And possibly all the Applebees, Olive gardens, and Golden Corals will have nano breweries in each location. That means they will be hiring all us home brewers to run them. ;)
we have a local chain brew restaurant around here, called Sweetwater Tavern. yes, they have troubles with the name, so at GABF or other pro competitions, they're entered as Great American Restaurants. decent beer, they only sell on premise and don't distribute

and the nearest brewery to my house, Beltway Brewing, is a contract brewery. They're making the core beers for several smaller local breweries, so the smaller breweries can concentrate on seasonal and one-offs. plus they're making the house beer for Buffalo Wing Factory (a local chain)
 

Qhrumphf

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Don't feel like reading all 6 pages so forgive me if this has been brought up already...

I recall listening to an interview with some social scientist author who specialised in food trends. He talked about the difference between permanent or at least long term trends, and fads. While cupcakes, or pie, or anything like that, is a flash in the pan food trend that comes up fast, and then dies fast, things like eating local, or organic, or "farm to table" are more societal changes than fads, and as such have much greater longevity.

I think the same applies to craft beer. The craft beer rise is going to be the new future- it mirrors those same trends in food of wanting small, local, recognizable, and less corporate. Things like the IPA trend, or the Bourbon Barrel trend, or the sour trend, those aren't going to last as long.

Point is, I don't think craft beer is going anywhere. Eventually poor QA/QC is going to catch up with bad brewers and they will shutter, and growth may slow or level off. But I doubt it's going to recede any time soon. But the specific hot new thing in craft beer, well that's going to ebb and change. And how brewers want to handle that is up to them. I see merit in both trying to stay a step ahead of the trends, as well as those who try to ignore the trends and do what they want to.
 

PlexVector

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we have a local chain brew restaurant around here, called Sweetwater Tavern. yes, they have troubles with the name, so at GABF or other pro competitions, they're entered as Great American Restaurants. decent beer, they only sell on premise and don't distribute

and the nearest brewery to my house, Beltway Brewing, is a contract brewery. They're making the core beers for several smaller local breweries, so the smaller breweries can concentrate on seasonal and one-offs. plus they're making the house beer for Buffalo Wing Factory (a local chain)
OMG! It's started...

The Lowes Food grocery chain here certain locations have whats called the Beer Den and you can taste various craft beer and get growlers filled or refilled.
http://www.lowesfoods.com/the-beer-den/
 

betarhoalphadelta

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The only thing is that even these neighborhood breweries need to be big enough to sustain themselves. Restaurants can get away with relatively low material costs and capital investments. Brewing has very high capital and material costs. To profit off of brewing, a small brewery may need to be 4-5 BBL brewing 3 days a week. That is a minimum of 400 pints a day sold, which doesn't seem entirely unreasonable, but requires more customers to come by regularly than a restaurant would.
True.

I do think a number of them will end up as brewpubs rather than pure breweries. The brewpub business model is much stronger than the nanobrewery model IMHO.

And others will supplant tap room sales by selling kegs to local restaurants, even though they may never sell bottles in supermarkets due to limited shelf space.

But the market in general is shifting towards craft, and that means there is a lot of room for growth. But there's not a lot more room on supermarket shelves and in national/regional distribution, which means the business models need to be local-centric.
 

betarhoalphadelta

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I can help with one new point. At least here in SoCal, Walmart carrying Mr. Beer and Target carrying Brooklyn kits was new for 4th quarter. (Disclosure, my wife and I are retail services reps for toy maker Mattel and it was something we saw on the floors and back rooms.)

Edit to clarify, they weren't there last year in our area.
Just let us know when they're in Toys R Us...

...THEN it's officially a bubble! :D
 

betarhoalphadelta

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I think the same applies to craft beer. The craft beer rise is going to be the new future- it mirrors those same trends in food of wanting small, local, recognizable, and less corporate. Things like the IPA trend, or the Bourbon Barrel trend, or the sour trend, those aren't going to last as long.
I don't think IPA (as a loose term for hop-forward beers, including APA) is going away. I think it was Jeff Alworth of the Beervana blog, and author of the recently released "Beer Bible", that basically has called IPA America's beer style.

The people I know who basically don't drink craft, drink IPA. Sours and bourbon barrel beers are price-limited due to production cost, but IPA isn't. And they're drinkable. It's a beer that you can easily buy a six pack and drink one after the other.

I think the American flavor palate is slowly trending away from overwhelming sweetness towards bolder, bigger flavors, including bitterness. See the growth of things like coffee, dark chocolate, green vegetables like Brussels sprouts, etc.

I think IPA is here to stay.
 

Qhrumphf

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I don't think IPA (as a loose term for hop-forward beers, including APA) is going away. I think it was Jeff Alworth of the Beervana blog, and author of the recently released "Beer Bible", that basically has called IPA America's beer style.

The people I know who basically don't drink craft, drink IPA. Sours and bourbon barrel beers are price-limited due to production cost, but IPA isn't. And they're drinkable. It's a beer that you can easily buy a six pack and drink one after the other.

I think the American flavor palate is slowly trending away from overwhelming sweetness towards bolder, bigger flavors, including bitterness. See the growth of things like coffee, dark chocolate, green vegetables like Brussels sprouts, etc.

I think IPA is here to stay.
I don't mean to say that I think IPA is going to go away. But I think eventually its prominence in American craft beer, that more or less (some rare exceptions) every single craft brewer brews one, and one might say HAS to brew one, is going to fall and something else will take its place. There's a craft brewer I know who is not a hop head, but brews a number of IPAs simply because they're going to sell the best.

What's going to replace it? Not sure. Malt is an option. And like you said, sours and barrel aged beers are often to expensive to become widespread (but certainly can be called trends amongst beer geeks).

I could see Belgians taking the torch. The yeast character can be just as assertive as the hops in an IPA, they're plentiful, lots of American brewers brew them and brew them well, and plenty of people like them already.
 

Calichusetts

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The good news is that the Brooklyn Brewshop kits are all-grain so buyers are introduced to full-on brewing from the start.
Thats how I started...didn't even know there was extract for my first year of brewing and still have never done an extract brew.

PS- My wife bought me a kit at William and Sonoma...6 years ago
 

Rhetorik

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I'd say that saisons are the new craft beer trend.

Hipsters love 'em because the name is french... So fashionable! So exotic! Bonus points if you throw in the word "Farmhouse" somewhere; it's so rustic!
 

GilaMinumBeer

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No offense taken, and apparently I don't get out enough. Man, I thought I was being facetious, turns out I didn't think far enough outside of the box. Mayne Ikea? Toys/Babies R Us? My local firearms dealer? lol I considered brewing to be somewhat a specialty endeavor, but I guess to me that sort of reinforces my thought, of jumping the shark. Maybe I am an elitist, but having it sold everywhere makes me feel that it's less 'special' or serious, or something. I know what I'm thinking, but can't seem to express it properly. Just my feeling, but that doesn't mean it's correct of course.
It was a niche about a decade ago, except to my great grandmother who argues that homebrewing was the only way to keep beer at the house.

But honestly, even today, itsa like buying a new car. It's not until you are driving it home that you realize that every third car you see, or third person you talk to, is doing it already.
 

thaymond

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...To borrow from my grandfather "people will always drink beer"; if times are good, they want to celebrate, but even when times are bad, beer is still on the shopping list...
Agreed. During bull/bear market turns, you can likely see different styles dominate the consumer craft beer markets. I have no proof to back it up, but i would assume when times are good, more expensive styles would likely dominate, like barrel aged beers and sours. Whereas when times are tough, you'll have less expensive styles become more popular like pales and lagers. Regardless of the market, beer will always be around.
 

Clonefan94

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I definitely don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. As far as the beer kits go, they've been popping up here and there for well over 20 years now. My first venture into homebrewing was back in 1995, I bought a "Beer MAchine" Similar to Mr. Beer, only instead of bottling, the barrel could hold pressure and had a special serving spigot to keep the inlet tube at the top. Therefore, add a CO2 bulb into the compartment and serve directly from the vessel. The kits were all pre-hopped LME at the time and the yeast definitely wasn't what it is today, but it made OK beer that was definitely better than the BMC that really cornered the market back then. Anyways, there have been Big Box store gimmicks for quite a while now.

As far as the breweries go, I'm not seeing any downturn yet. Any town I go to, I always try to hit a local brewery and have yet to go to a taproom that isn't pretty full. My theory on this is that not only was America missing good beer for a while, but the old neighborhood pub was disappearing as well.

At least in the Schaumburg, IL area I live in, it was really tough to find a good old fashioned pub, where the main goal was to gather with other adults and enjoy a drink. There were plenty of bars, but they were also family restaurants and that was their main source of business, not the pub end. And if you did find a place that was mostly bar, they seemed to want to pump dance music all night long, basically preventing any kind of decent conversation.

The Tap rooms seem to have become that old time neighborhood pub that used to exist before electronic music. A place you can stop in, have a few beers, chat it up with the locals then be on your way. Not worrying about seeing a menu and not worrying about keeping all your conversation family friendly.

So, from what I've seen so far, as long as you are making good beer and not worried about becoming a millionaire, there seems to be a spot for you in this world. There is always going to be a group trying to cash in on a trend. You just have to try to distinguish between the ones who really care about getting you a solid product and those just trying to make a quick buck.
 

fumanchu282

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What if instead of breweries being like wineries, breweries are like the music industry? Huge profits to only th highly visible, and for the rest they give their product away at break even or loss and get by with supplemental revenue streams? Only difference is that people pay for beer and not music any more, but what's the difference if you have to match BMC on price in the long run?
 

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BeerChef17

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It's here to stay. Being a Chef I 100% relate this to the foodie craze that happened right before the beer craze. A lot of people drank BMC for years and their eyes where finally opened up. To accompany it, along with any craze, there is a huge boom and breweries opening and closing left and right. But as the consumer and as the crafter that's only good for us. The more recognition the more people finding out what works and what doesn't. It's easier to find a product you like now than before the boom. Ofcourse there will be trends and crazes that will come and go but for the large part the quality will stay. Just like the food network revolution changed (and pissed off) the culinary world, in the end it's all for the better. Even if the craft beer trend died would you ever want to go back to BMC all time? If no, then there is your answer
 

moreb33rplz

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I've seen kits sold at Bass Pro Shop, which makes no sense at all.

But as far as the craft beer upswing, my thinking has always been this: breweries will become like restaurants. The big boys will continue to dominate in sales numbers like fast food chains do. Larger craft breweries (Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Stone, etc) will have a large nation/international presence as well similar to Red Lobster, PF Changs, etc. Then there will be regional and local breweries just like you see a small restaurant around the corner from you that is family owned. Since the capital investment and operating costs are greater for a brewery compared to a restaurant, we aren't talking about 200 local breweries for a large metro area like Houston, but instead it could maintain 10 or so comfortably.

What we will see an end to is small breweries becoming national companies regularly. Those starting a brewery now should not aim to be the next Sierra Nevada or Ballast Point, they should aim to become a stable for their region at most. Unless you are lucky enough to have a large financial backer and a lot of connections such as Karbach here in Houston (make great beer, but you can tell that their owners had connections in distribution by the way they were able to grow so quickly).

Look at a place like Germany. I would assume there are approximately 1,300 breweries for about 80 million people. Compare that to about 1,600 breweries (not including brewpubs) in the USA for almost 300 million people. Many of the small breweries in Germany are dedicated to a small local region. I worked at one during college over the summer that really only served about a 30 mile radius (it is also the one my grandfather and great-grandfather worked at; Stolz in Isny).

Another way to put it is this: when someone starts a restaurant, they don't think they will become huge. They normally think that they will create a nice income for their family and enjoy their work. People used to (and still sometimes do) start breweries thinking they will own a big business eventually. That mindset will most likely change over time to fit more of the restaurant model.

The other side of your question is demand; will the demand for craft beer keep up? I would say somewhat. Already you are seeing the shift from IPA's to sours and saisons. Stone used to get by just by being the bitter bastard, but is now being forced to look at different styles. But that's the beauty, there are so many different styles that it will likely become a cycle of what is hot right now. On top of that, while IPA's are no longer the hottest thing right now, there is still a massive demand for them. They are now a staple, you can't have a brewery without an IPA in your line up. The overall demand will most likely stay stable (once it tops out, it is still growing now).

The analogy to martinis doesn't quite work either; people don't really go home and drink a martini, or make a martini to watch a game, they are more for going out and for more special occasions. Beer on the other hand is something people grab when they just want something good to drink, you keep a sixer in the fridge just in case (or in our case, a keg in the keezer and a few cases in the closet).

The total demand for beer rarely drops, and the demand for craft is still growing (you are also seeing the way the big boys are buying up craft breweries, they see the trend and want to profit off of it). To borrow from my grandfather "people will always drink beer"; if times are good, they want to celebrate, but even when times are bad, beer is still on the shopping list (just maybe not that $30 bomber of barrel aged sour saison).

Phew. Sorry. This is something I have spent too much time thinking about.

TL:DR - The market is changing; breweries will become more local and regional, but with the big boys still holding the majority of the volume. Demand will not drop, but instead it is diversifying.
I see your point, but morally object to comparing Sierra Nevada to Red Lobster. Blasphemy!
 
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alha

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...As far as the breweries go, I'm not seeing any downturn yet. Any town I go to, I always try to hit a local brewery and have yet to go to a taproom that isn't pretty full. My theory on this is that not only was America missing good beer for a while, but the old neighborhood pub was disappearing as well.

At least in the Schaumburg, IL area I live in, it was really tough to find a good old fashioned pub, where the main goal was to gather with other adults and enjoy a drink. There were plenty of bars, but they were also family restaurants and that was their main source of business, not the pub end. And if you did find a place that was mostly bar, they seemed to want to pump dance music all night long, basically preventing any kind of decent conversation.

The Tap rooms seem to have become that old time neighborhood pub that used to exist before electronic music. A place you can stop in, have a few beers, chat it up with the locals then be on your way. Not worrying about seeing a menu and not worrying about keeping all your conversation family friendly.
Kinda like Cheers, then, except R rated. ;-)
 

MattyIce

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I am interested to see what happens during the next downswing in the economy.

I am also interested to see what role legislation will play when it comes to issues like three tier distribution, and how those effect the culture.
 

Yellowirenut

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Brewers Association reports 4,144 at last count, the most in the country since 1873

I think the interesting fact in the infographic at that link: 1 bbl per 4.7 persons in 1873, today it is 1 bbl per 14.

that would suggest the US could support >12,000 breweries
We also used to be able to drink low alcohol beer at work. Laborers where encouraged to partake. But alas it only takes a few to ruin the whole deal. There where also table beers that where shared by the entire family over a meal. I don't see the volume per person at 1873 numbers again.
 

Calichusetts

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We also used to be able to drink low alcohol beer at work. Laborers where encouraged to partake. But alas it only takes a few to ruin the whole deal. There where also table beers that where shared by the entire family over a meal. I don't see the volume per person at 1873 numbers again.

That's because beer was safer than water until 100 years ago.
 

unionrdr

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An older guy I worked with at Ford worked one of the breweries that used to be in Cleveland. They got, I believe, two beers a day on the house.
 
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alha

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I am interested to see what happens during the next downswing in the economy.

I am also interested to see what role legislation will play when it comes to issues like three tier distribution, and how those effect the culture.
Yep, I mentioned that upthread as well, but I think that unless we (and I mean more than just us home/pro brewers, I mean a critical mass of the general public) get behind some major changes to the status quo, there is too much money invested in the way it currently operates to significantly modify the 3 tier dist model.

One can always hope though, and maybe with enough brew pubs, and other locales that sell crafty beer along with we brewers get behind a campaign informing their customers of the issues it causes, and to contact their politicos and really push the issue, change may just happen. Hey, it wasn't till JC signed the legislation legalizing home brewing back in the 1970's that would could do this legally. Next on the road, spirit distillation, at least in Home Use quantities. Another tough fight against moneyed interests. But, I've lived long enough to know to never say never. I even sent my state rep an email about it early last year, I'll quote a little of it just for a quick reference:

Just thought I'd send you a (turns out looking at it, a rather lengthy) message. I was reviewing laws regarding home brewing and distilling, and after reading up on one section of our laws, and comparing it to what I saw as the law in Missouri, I was honestly amazed at how anal and overbearing we are compared to them.

Here is a link to their statue on it: http://www.moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/31100000551.html
and here is a link to ours: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=340a.301

3 short paragraphs, versus a whole long page with chapters, sub-chapters, divisions, sub-divisions, addendum's, licenses, bonds, fees, permits, etc etc etc. It's absolutely amazing. I think I am starting to agree with the people who say that govt is over-reaching and over regulating, it's pretty amazing the difference in philosophy between the 2 states. From what I can see, they seem to have it pretty much right. If you want to make it, for your own personal use, go right ahead, we have no problem with that at all. If it's legal to buy, it's just as legal to make. Here, not so much so. Maybe you can print out and pass around to your colleagues the law that MO has, and propose something similar here in MN..
Of course, I got the 'Thanks for the Letter, we'll look into this' reply, but shockingly, nothing I could tell came of it. Oh well, I'll keep working on it, maybe some day this too shall come to pass. I mean, it only makes sense, at least to me.
 
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