Taps worldwide are opening their bellies to the growing demand for craft beer. It is becoming just as common to come across these tasty brews in a sporting arena as it is at a local pub. Small, independent and traditional- these are the qualities that define a craft brewery. Craft breweries generally produce less than 6 million barrels of beer annually. Craft beer produced by a brewery of this nature must be flavored with traditional or innovative ingredients, but cannot be flavored malt beverages. To be considered a craft brewery, less than 25 percent of the company should be owned by any other beverage company other than the independent brewery itself. But, despite the exclusivity one feels from trying a uniquely made craft concoction, craft beer sales and exports have grown significantly in the last few years.
Stepping Outside The Box
Using uniquely complex flavors and more traditional ingredients, like malt barley, craft brewers generally don’t have large financial backing from larger brewers and produce less barrels annually. Craft breweries are responsible for only a small percentage of total beer sales worldwide. Regardless of this fact, craft beer is still making a huge impact anywhere and everywhere it can get on the shelves or in the tap.
In previous years, IPA has grown immensely in popularity and demand, nearly 40% in three years. IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a more hoppy beer in the Pale Ale category. The strong hops flavor is pure beer awesomeness, and people are becoming more aware of this. Hops is a female flower that is the primary flavor in most beers often lending it a bitter, tangy flavor. IPA and other beers with an intense hops flavor are a great way to begin your adventure in the appreciation of craft beer.
More and more, people are looking for that unique twist on the classic brew. Classic beer is great, but it is hard not to be intrigued by the promise of a unique experience, interestingly complex flavor, and higher alcohol content for the price. Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza says that “Beer lovers are turning toward full-flavored beers, especially India Pale Ales, seasonal beers, and Belgians.”
Now, breweries everywhere are scratching their heads, getting out their note-pads, and formulating intriguing new flavors to pique the interest of beer lovers far and wide. Not only are the flavors and varieties rolling in, but new craft breweries are getting started everywhere you look! And they are getting their business off to an interesting start, with the simple notion that they just want to “do something different”.
Production of craft beer rose 9.6 percent, while overall beer production fell 1.4 percent, according to Technomic’s “2014 Special Trends in Adult Beverage Report: State of the Industry”. Bart Watson, Ph. D., staff economist of the Brewers Association, says “Over the last couple of years, the number of new brewery openings has been at near unprecedented levels. We’re seeing breweries open at about a rate of 1.2 per day.”.
With this increase in independent brewers and interesting new flavors, there is a craft beer out there for any palate and any price range. Some breweries even make gluten-free beer, as well as varieties flavored with local herbs, seeds, crops, fungus and other local goodies. Each ingredient lends its own unique and aromatic properties to the mix.
Retailers Take Notice
The Brewers Association estimates that there are roughy 34.6 million barrels of capacity from self-reported craft breweries alone. With the growing demand, and popularity of craft beer, it is no surprise that retailers are also jumping on the wagon. The response is great! Since these unique brews are making it onto more shelves, even more beer lovers are taking notice and they are ready for something out of the ordinary.
Retailers are becoming just as important in the widespread recognition and promotion of craft beer as pubs and bars. The difference being that retailers often have to be careful in the selection of independent brewers to represent, as some smaller companies may not be able to keep up with the heftier demand that comes along with their beer being stocked on shop shelves. With the flux in craft breweries, retailers are becoming fine-tuned to recognize which breweries are focused on volume, and which ones are focused on variety and craftsmanship.
Higher demand for craft beer keeps retailers on their toes. With the market constantly changing and evolving, shop owners and enthusiasts will need to keep up with the most recent trends and train themselves to recognize the various qualities that people look for in a craft beer. You want to have a good variety of unique, complex, and aromatic flavors, as well as a good range of prices to meet various budgets. Chad Heath, sales director of Stone Brewing says, “Keeping up with demand is the number one mistake brewers make when expanding distribution.”.
Wake Up and Smell the Hops
The community gathering and rallying around craft beer is even more awake. Social gatherings, hipster hangouts, and even pubs specifically catering to craft brew fanatics- are popping up everywhere with no end in sight. A decade ago, you wouldn’t have seen these brews anywhere, but now they are on the menu at your favorite restaurant, right there with the big dogs and the imports. Though the market for craft beer is growing, it still only account for about 7 percent of the overall market. To grow even further, many microbreweries are skipping out on the bottling process and focusing their efforts on the taps at your local bars and restaurants.
Many independent brewers participate in festivals and events to raise awareness. These venues are an important part of the craft beer movement, but many of these breweries are becoming a social hub for their own distribution. Many breweries now feature taprooms or brewpubs, depending on local laws. Playing live music and hosting events draws in plenty of local traffic, but picking up the local customers and getting that “word of mouth” advertising is a huge help for independents to gain a local fanbase. Developing this network of local supporters and fans makes a bigger impact as a product begins to expand into various other venues, like pubs and restaurants.
So, the next time you are enjoying your appetizers, thinking how good those batter-dipped poppers would taste with a beer, think about how much better they would taste with a craft beer. You won’t know until you try.