Craft is an art. Even the word implies a beautiful meaning, creation. So many bearded men in flannel expressing themselves and their appreciation for flavor and creativity in ways previously unexplored can’t be a bad thing, can it? As an American who has lived overseas, I have noticed that we Americans fall prey to a few things that can lead us astray from. We almost always think bigger is better. We almost always want more of a good thing. Those sound like very similar things, but they’re not.
Investor dollars have created a drive for profitability and returns that did not exist previously. That desire for growth for profitability and for growth’s sake has led to many brewers taking the easy way out. Throwing the word IPA on anything has been a fast track to printing money the last few years, regardless of whether what’s in the bottle is good or not. The same is true with hop varieties. We sell Citra® hops so, yes, I’m happy when brewers buy it, but … come on. Grow the art of craft beer by being creative, mixing varieties, experimenting with new flavors! Don’t just make the 25,000th Citra® IPA.
If making another one of what the other guy has so you can sell more beer is all you can think of as a craft brewer, then I’m worried for the future of craft beer. Van Gogh didn’t use just one color of paint when he created his masterpieces. His goal wasn’t to be the biggest most famous painter in the world, however, his paintings are still vibrant and alive for their use of so many bright colors, I understand everybody needs to make a buck. How will the little craft brewery distinguish itself from the multinational corporate brewery if making a buck becomes the guiding principle of the craft beer industry? If your primary goal is market share, are you being true to your craft? If money is your mantra have you not become what you supposedly despised in the first place?
Crafting anything is an art and it is the way to emphasize and celebrate uniqueness. Brewers … Explore the craft you have chosen. If you truly are a craft brewer you should push the boundaries. Color outside the lines. Mix the paints. Think outside the box. Don’t cheapen the meaning of the word in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Make money as a result of exploring where you can take craft. You don’t have to be bigger to be better. You have to be better to get bigger. Focus on being better and the bigger will follow.
Tomorrow: Part 2 and the conclusion of Craft Inc.