Is craft beer a trend or is it part of the culture today? The first craft breweries today are billion dollar companies. The next wave of craft breweries followed the same path. They too enjoyed wild growth and today, they are big corporations. They traded the “local” moniker to be bigger and you can find them in almost any grocery store across the country. Craft brewers followed the examples of the only brewers that had come before them, the ones we know as the “Big Brewers” or the “Multinationals”. In doing so, David became Goliath.
What do I mean using the David and Goliath comparison? It might not be exactly what you think. This excellent article on Inc.com describes the differences between David and Goliath and why I think the example is appropriate in today’s world.
For craft brewing to be part of our collective culture, rather than just a product on the shelf at our grocery store, the story must evolve. It cannot be about west coast IPAs brewed fresh on the east coast or in Europe. That type of brewing has its place, but it doesn’t transform culture. To be part of our culture, however, it must be about experience and story. It’s about the guy or gal brewing with their friends in the garage. It’s about the person who got the courage up to open a small place in town. That sounds pretty simple, but it’s hard when you’re chasing what you think is “the American dream” where bigger is better.
Small brewers with strong local support and content to stay local can cause a change in culture. People content on supporting a local business can cause a change in culture. The cultural revolution will depend on the uniqueness of thousands of brewers. Each of them may only have a few thousand loyal customers, but that’s enough. They’ll each, in turn, provide jobs to a handful of people. That way, through a grass roots change, all across the country, the culture will change toward one in which craft beer can play a strong role.
To see the future of the beer culture, it is tempting to look at the top of the list of craft brewers in the U.S., the ones with the largest production. Those breweries represent an old paradigm where bigger is better. The future rests with the small craft brewer practicing his art day in day out. Today, craft beer is a trend. To become culture, however, the small craft brewery must be the goal, rather than the stepping stone it is today. How many businesses today have the goal to be small?