We all have that one friend who we feel uncomfortable having a drink with –or near. Not because they tend to have a few too many and start to get handsy or excessively loud, but because they feel the need to lecture you on every detail and factoid that they know of that goes into the beer making process.
They feel compelled and must share with you, as well as the bartender, their extensive knowledge of the brewing process that eventually leads to the sudsy contents now inside of their glass. This friend no matter how you want to phrase it, is a beer snob.
We all know one and always try to avoid ordering beer around them because they inevitably will criticize and comment on your “limited familiarity” of micro-brewed beers and other ales and lagers (“You’re ordering Heineken…really?”).
The beer snob can be annoying if you are not really into beer culture, but when it comes down to it, they really do know their stuff and are actually a huge and ever-growing market of beer consumers that cannot be ignored anymore. The average beer snob (I’m going to stop saying “Snob” and replace it with “Enthusiast” from here on out) genuinely knows the difference between a good beer and a bad one and is not afraid to be vocal about it. This knowledge, as well as overall pickiness, makes them a growing demographic that is in no danger of slowing down.
Today we will take a look at the craft beer phenomenon and examine why it is booming so much, and making the premium beer makers nervous.
The ongoing battle between Craft and Premium beer.
For the most part, there are two competing circles in the world of beer, with the smaller circle trying to send some of their beers over into the bigger circle. Yes, there are many, many different kinds of drinkable beers such as IPA’s, Stouts, Ales, lagers…all those kinds, but those variants are not what makes up the two circles that I will be discussing today.
The two circles are made up of Premium beers and of Craft beers. Premium beers are the kinds of brews that your father and your father’s father typically drank. Beers like Coors Light, Bud Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and even Heineken qualify as Premium, and these kinds of brews are the ones that are sold nationally and beyond.
- What are Premium beers?
The Premium beer makers brew their batches in massive quantities inside of giant factories so that they can meet the national “demand” for their beers in bars and watering holes all across the country. The individuals who prefer this kind of beer more than likely drink it out of habit and tendency more than flavor and experience.
Premium beer consumers, for example, may have a ritual of cracking open an ice-cold can of “brewski” to unwind after a hard day at the factory doing…whatever factory workers do in factories.
- What are Craft beers?
As for Craft beers, there are far too many and independently operated breweries around the country to name and list off as examples. Every state has on average a few hundred different breweries within their borders, and each of those breweries are competing with each other to be the best.
Some Craft breweries want nothing more than to supply their local areas with the best beer possible, but other small and independent breweries are gunning for Premium beers, and are aiming to dethrone one of the “kings of beer” and take its place as the most loved and asked for when at bars all across the nation.
A quick history of Craft beer.
Craft beer got its roots in American culture from the idea that people wanted more than just what the Premium beer makers were producing. By the end of 70’s and the early 80’s, there were barely more than 10 or so different options for beer available on tap in the average bar, and many people were fed up. To fight back, some bars and beer lovers began to experiment with recipes at home and in the backrooms of their establishments. The result was what we call “Craft beer” (think of Craft as in, “arts and crafts”).
People loved what Craft beer provided them: an alternative to all of the otherwise light and low-calorie beers offered on tap by the Premium beer providers. Obviously, the Premium beer makers were not happy, but the beer snobs and beer enthusiasts rejoiced with the newly offered variety now available.
So why do beer drinkers love Craft beer so much?
Don’t get me wrong, many Craft beers can actually be pretty fantastic, offering flavors and experiences better than what you typically would experience when sticking with your favorite and regular Premium beer. Very customizable, Craft beers that stick around for longer than just a year stays in business for a solid reason: because people love them and want more and more –regardless of price.
Often times, breweries try to break through the noise with a beer that is just plain bizarre. One beer that came out not too long ago was “avocado beer”, and it came out just in time for Cinco de Mayo. The beer didn’t market too well and was supposed to serve as a tent pole for the brewery. Lesson? People like innovation with beer, but let’s not get too carried away.
Countless Craft beers are becoming so well loved and are gaining loyal followers, contrary to what critics originally thought and said about the “fad”. Why are they so loved? Because they allow a deviation from the predictable and “boring” beverage of choice from our forefathers.
This ability to create a new tradition and collect an original “beer of choice” is one of the many reasons, and one of the strongest reasons, that Craft beer has been able to survive and thrive as successfully as it has since it began booming back in the early 2000’s.
We are willing to pay a lot for what we genuinely love.
More important than the quality of the choices available to beer enthusiasts is the quantity of choices. Modern-day beer lovers are interested in sampling around and hunting for the next Craft beer that will serve as their new favorite, and they certainly don’t mind the shopping process of sampling one new brew after another.
Although Craft beer is more expensive than Premium beers that can easily be picked up at the corner convenience store, beer buyers are certainly not complaining. If the product tastes good, and also allows them to feel that they are buying a product that they have a connection to, then Craft beer lovers will pay almost any price for the goods, as well as drive and travel out to wherever they can get their hands on the product.
The modern-day beer drinker wants to see their favorite drink undergo innovation. Although there are many misfires in the beer innovation industry (remember that avocado beer?), beer enthusiasts still remain hopeful that they will find a new batch of beers that will fit their desired description of what they like best in a cold glass of suds.
Craft beer drinkers will keep buying the drink that fits their preferences until another beer surfaces that hits the mark even better than the last one. This stop-and-go motion of Craft beer drinkers is what is supporting the Craft beer industry, and is what will keep it around for years and years to come.
You never know, the brewery masters may just even iron out the kinks in avocado beer. I have high hopes for the idea, even though I still am trying to get the taste avocado out of my mouth since I tasted it last back on Cinco de Mayo.