Friday, June 7, 2013

Craft Beers: Doing the Numbers

My three sons are craft beer enthusiasts. Their father is not because my beer-drinking days have past, and because, I don't get it. I'll never be able to use the phrase "mouth feel" when referring to a beverage. They do.

But I like the "movement," the kind of 60's back to the garden, do-good-things-for-the-love-of-it kind of approach with a little of anti-establishment, anti-monopoly religious zeal thrown in. Tell a craft beer guy you'd prefer a Budweiser and you'll soon feel like the proverbial sinner at the church picnic.

From the June 7 The New Yorker Magazine post:
"As of March, the United States was home to two thousand three hundred and sixty craft breweries, the relatively small, artisanship-oriented producers best known for India pale ales, porters, and other decidedly non-Budweiser-esque beers. These beverages have become so popular that craft beer now represents thirty per cent of Costco’s beer sales..."
I believe it. When I was in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago I bought beer for my boys at the local corner market. Years ago the display shelves would have been lined with six-packs of Miller, Coors, and Bud, now they are lined with single bottles of craft beer with names like Dogfish, Victory, and Sierra Nevada. Hundreds of labels all neatly stacked in rows. Never mind that each bottle costs about three bucks each, and never mind that I used to buy a 12-pack of Natural Light for $5.97, this is what the 20 - 40 year old beer drinker is drinking.

Of course, Budweiser is paying attention and like any corporate bully will be looking to buy up the profitable bits of the business and some craft brewers will be looking to cash out and cash in. This is America after all. When I was 18, I never imagined the Beatles could be anything but revolutionaries, but I have heard the instrumental Musak version of "You Say You Want a Revolution" in a JC Penney's shoe section. It ain't right but it happens.

What I am saying is one never knows how something like this will mature, but however it grows up we can all enjoy a return to quality, to small business, big dreams, and the big adventure, and if I had half a chance I'd jump in with them. If you like numbers and charts the New Yorker has some catchy interactive charts with numbers for all kinds of artisan beer categories.

Click here: BEER


John said...

Back in the day, there was nothing better than an Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing. And there's no comparison to a Budweiser.

Francis Shivone said...

I believe you John and I believe them. I just never acquired the taste I guess. If I could now I would, but, too late I am afraid.

RJG said...

I recognize that photo. Definitely Total Wine. They have a great selection (the Hulen store - it;'s a long haul for me, but it's always been worth it). And not a single Nat Light ;-) I've now tried over 1,600 beers (bottles, cans, bombers, taps, brewpubs) - mostly in the last 5 years or so. I'm not much for the beer rating guys either "mouthfeel" (LOL) "notes of cabbage and hot dog water"... It gets tiring reading them. I have my own little personal rating system. And it's mostly along the usual caveman lines like good, not good, that kind of thing...

It's a fun little hobby - not only great tasting but puts me in a good state of mind. It's also added one more cool thing to do when traveling - head over to the grocery store and buy a few beers I've never had before! And Mrs. RJG enjoys it too, so I've got a partner in crime.

Francis Shivone said...

Here are a few comments sent to my email:

From Ben:

Excellent observations. And what is especially interesting is that there are "craft snobs" within this genre of beer drinkers. Now there are sours, ciders and the like and anyone who drinks an IPA, or Ale is "not with it".

And why drink a bottle when you can carry a "growler" (an old style pail of beer that makes a bit of a noise when the carbonation escapes - thus the name)

And yet the more things's only a matter of time until what's old is new again. And you correctly point out, the "big boys" will buy the popular labels and make them part of the public lexicon.

From Thomas:
It's also added a sort of expertise to the art of drinking and enjoying beer. Beer drinkers can now enjoy conversations about great beers like people who previously enjoyed wine and scotch. Knowing the difference between a dogfish head 60 minute and 90 minute or why Victory and Stone are such superior breweries make it another conversation topic on top of sports, women and bacon. Even Newfoundland has two craft breweries. They suck..But they exist.

From Stephen
Thomas is right...By the way, Thomas, I've decided I do not like 90 minute. I brought a growler of it back from Rehoboth and found I much prefer the 60.

Francis Shivone said...

RJG -- I'm with you on the rating system. I also like the hobby and agree that that kind of thing just adds to the enjoyment of visiting someplace new especially if the spouse enjoys it as well.