Acquiring a taste for acquiring craft breweries. Another acquisition/merger announced.
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Remember when we called it microbrew? Remember when we called them microbreweries? If you answered yes, you are officially old. Those days are long gone. Sometimes it feels like other than dropping the term micro, little has changed. A lot of particulars have changed, but in general, there’s a lot of old-world thinking that has not changed. It needs to. Read on.
The New Normal
“Zero growth doesn't mean no change.” That was one of the more encouraging things that Bart Watson said during his keynote address at last week’s Craft Brewers Conference. The Brewers Association’s Chief Economist said a lot of things that probably sent shivers up people’s spines. Brewbound shared a good synopsis here (paywalled).
It wasn’t all bad news. A lot of clouds, but also some silver linings. One important thing Watson mentioned, stop blaming the pandemic. Its impact is not really a factor in the industry’s current situation. There will be no return to the pre-pandemic world of 2019 and the decade of remarkable craft beer growth that preceded it. Watson suggested that the flat growth rate is the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future, and we need to find ways to succeed within the new reality.
“The ideas that have gotten craft where it is were wonderful, they were ingenious, they changed the beverage alcohol world. But that’s not the same thing as saying the ideas that got us here are the ones that are going to take us to the next level. We’re going to need new ways of thinking.”
Of all the stats and observations that Watson shared, one thing that really stood out was his suggestion that craft brewers need to develop new strategies and innovations. He spoke of the need to connect with new customers, appeal to different demographics, and find new occasions.
From the brewhouse to the bottleshop, from the boil kettle to the bartop, the entire craft beer industry needs to find ways to attract new audiences. Who are they and how do we reach them? That’s the big question. One thing is certain, we cannot continue to behave like it’s 2019 or 2009 because it’s not.
We got this! Craft beer was born out of a desire to do something different. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when only a tiny portion of the nation had ever heard of microbreweries and an even tinier portion actually drank microbrews, our craft-brewing ancestors created an audience for their products by appealing to the unconverted and making them feel welcome inside the craft beer tent. It seems clear that we need to do the same.
Bringing Culture to the Cup
This is very much related to what we said above. Last week we briefly mentioned that the Craft Brewers Conference provided an opportunity for a new organization to introduce itself: the National Black Brewers Association (NB2A). The newly formed non-profit organization’s motto: We Celebrate Those Bringing Culture to the Cup.
“Less than 1% of craft breweries in the U.S. are owned by African Americans and there is no single entity to help African American brewers and brewery owners with their specific needs and issues,” says the NB2A website.
Let’s put that 1% number into perspective. There are now about 9,500 breweries in the U.S. and only about 100 of them are Black-owned. The National Black Brewers Association intends to change that. The goals of the NB2A:
To promote the Black brewing community as a first-of-its-kind organization.
To increase the number of African Americans in the brewing industry at all levels of production, especially ownership, and brewmaster.
To exercise political influence by developing and advocating for effective policy
To foster an understanding of the history and legacy of African American brewing in the United States.
As the Craft Brewers Conference was wrapping up, Boston Beer Company presented the NB2A with a big check for $225,000. “We’re thrilled to receive this generous donation from Boston Beer Company,” said Kevin Johnson, the founder of the NB2A. “Partnerships with household names like the Boston Beer Company are essential to the success and growth of organizations like ours. With their support and resources, we’re better equipped to provide the necessary tools and opportunities for Black brewers and brewery owners to thrive.”
“We believe that by working together, we can create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable industry that benefits everyone.”
The Taster Tray believes that creating a more diverse audience for craft beer is a path to success in the new normal. We applaud the NB2A’s goal of making the industry more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
Around the Web
Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth, Minnesota is collaborating with Cheech and Chong, the stoner comedy duo. The brewery debuted its new line of THC beverages last week on 4/20. Story on The Business Journal.
Customs officials in Belgium destroyed a shipment of Miller High Life, which Miller has called the champagne of beers for over 100 years. The organization that defends the use of the word champagne decided it was time for Miller's appropriation of the word to end, at least in Belgium. Story on NPR.
Currently, imported beer is the driving force behind volume growth in the overall U.S. beer market (what growth there is), with Mexican imports outperforming other imports. Interestingly, Mexican imports are more popular in certain parts of the country. Not necessarily where you'd expect. Story by The Drinks Business.
Random Beery Bric-a-Brac
Speaking of boycotts. In 2003, a brewery in South Africa (Birkhead Brewery) had a delivery van running around town sporting the slogan, "Birkhead Brewery - helping ugly people have sex since 1852." The townspeople went nuts, and not in a good way. There were threats of boycotts and even threats of violence, including public stonings. The brewery retired the offending van, no one got hurt, time moved on and today Birkhead Brewery survives as one of South Africa's oldest craft brewers.
So how did we do this week?
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This week's Taster Tray was composed by Kendall Jones.