The Bold New World of 2014 Looks Unsettlingly Like 1978
"It's a curious way to launch a product not dissimilar to Coors' Blue Moon or Anheuser-Busch's Shock Top..."
--Ezra Johnson-Greenough, discussing Stone Stochasticity Project
|Yes, that object to the left is what|
you think it is.
It go me thinking. If the craft beer market has become a contest over the most outrageous, has craft beer finally grown up and become its nemesis, mass market beer? Allow me to demonstrate.
- [Debased state] Beer made with adjuncts and pitched at a mass audience. Sales driven by slick marketing campaigns and gimmicks with little focus on craft, tradition, or flavor.
- [Reaction] Artisanal beer, made with all-grain grists. Sales driven exclusively by focus on beer flavor.
- [Diversification] Beers that attempt to explore the full range of world styles. Sales driven by focus on new flavors and styles.
- [Education] More sophisticated beer styles and more polished recipes based on European standards. Sales driven by focus on flavor and tradition.
- [Standardization] As consumer palates evolve, favorite beer styles begin to emerge, creating a large market for a few styles (like IPAs). Sales driven by standard styles.
- [Experimentation] More exotic beers made in a variety of methods with a dazzling array of ingredients. Sales driven by novelty.
- [ ??? ] Beer made with wacky ingredients and pitched at a mass audience. Sales driven by slick marketing campaigns and gimmicks with little focus on craft, tradition, or flavor.
Some people were alarmed by the recent news that AB InBev was buying Long Island's Blue Point Brewing. This marked another threat to craft brewing, so the fear goes, because it blurs the line between "craft" and "macro." It's not entirely misplaced. But the fear I have is that the real threat isn't from the outside; it's from craft breweries that have absorbed the business strategy the big companies had perfected by the 1970s--the very strategy that sparked craft brewing--of focusing on slick marketing and gimmicks rather than the flavor and craft of the beer.
We all become our parents, right? That could be a problem.