Hello brew crew!
Happy spring! We’ve had a bit of a rainy start, but sunshine and warm weather are on its way. To start this month’s Brewsletter, I wanted to touch base on some recent developments in the craft beer scene. The U.S. Brewers Association released their annual beer numbers. Craft beer growth has slowed to 6%, causing some concern. To put that in perspective, the number of breweries opening increased 16.6% to 5,301 breweries. Most of these are small to start, but they may not stay that way.
Two large craft brewers have recently spoken out publicly regarding the industry in different ways.
First, Jim Koch of Samuel Adams penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Is It Last Call for Craft Beer?” In it, he blames the big boys, citing the new duopoloy of Molson Coors and AB Inbev, and the consolidation of wholesalers. “The growth and the excitement in the beer business is in craft, and its potential is threatened by a beer landscape that is heavily tilted toward gigantic conglomerates and against the independent, innovative entrants.”
Second, Dave Eisenberg of Good Beer Hunting conducted an interview with Sierra Nevada’s Brian Grossman. In it, he says brewing beer is a dying art, and blames the little guys. “There’s a lot of people getting into our industry that don’t invest the time and the effort that it takes to really master the craft.”
Who’s right? In my opinion, currently, neither of them. The recent rise in craft beer – from 1,800 breweries to 5,300 in a nine-year span! means that these are boom times for craft beer and consumers. Regarding the big boys, the numbers alone in craft speak for themselves. Regarding little guys and new breweries, while there are definitely some new players that are missing on their first batches (or later), overall, the quality and variety of beer has probably never been better.
The problem is that certain brewers, especially the larger, older legacy craft brewers, are feeling the heat from both sides, and are selling less beer than they’d like. However, I want to add a caveat that Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada have done incredible things for the craft beer industry, and brew some great beers, so I am not trying to pick on them; I just wanted to point out some current industry trends.
Could there be trouble on the horizon? Definitely. Big brewers and wholesalers should be watched like hawks to make sure they don’t use bad practices to restrict choice for consumers and hurt small independent breweries. New breweries, while they should get a little time to perfect their craft when getting started, should still be held to high standards, and I think consumers – the market – will play a large role in choosing the best.
The good news? It’s never been a better time to drink beer!
Bruce and the CBE Team
Chicago Beer Experience Beer Tours, various dates; Link
Chicago Beer Classic – May 6, Soldier Field; Link
Beer Under Glass (CCBW Opening Event) – May 18, Garfield Park Conservatory; Link
Chicago Craft Beer Week (CCBW) – May 18-25, Various Locations; Link
Here are other interesting beer stories from the past month or so:
- Chicagoans drink double the Miller Beer & whiskey compare to the rest of the U.S. Link.
- The Beer Temple in Avondale is adding a taproom. Link.
- Here are 7 modern food and drinks that define Chicago, including Bourbon Countyand…Malort. Link.
- Here’s a good article on the Forbidden Root brewpub. Link.
- The Chicago Reader compiled a great guide to Chicago brewery tours. Link.
- Alulu, a new brewpub, is now open in Pilsen. Link.
- Play Ball! The White Sox have more craft beer options at Comiskey…the Cell…errr I mean Guaranteed Rate Field this year. Link.
- Plan you own craft beer crawl through the south suburbs. Link.
- Gino’s East has a brewpub at their River North location, and it’s actually pretty darn delicious. Link.
- Happy 25th Anniversary to iconic beer bars Hopleaf and Maproom! Link.
- Beer bar Centennial is a welcome addition to River North. Link.
- Marz Community Brewing is planning a Bridgeport Taproom that will be ‘Theatrical, Magical’. Link.
- Alarmist Brewing’s taproom is open in Sauganash on the northwest side. Link.
- Finch Beer Co. is back. Link.
- Here’s an article from Milwaukee on 2017 craft beer trends (hint: New England IPA). Link.
- Grand Rapids: Beer City USA. Link.
- 8 Questions for the Smithsonian’s new beer historian. Link.
- Mexican beer is still popular in Trump’s America. Link.
- Here’s a funny parody video of the craft beer scene by Canada’s “This Hour Has 22 Minutes”. We need to laugh at ourselves! Link.
- Don’t ignore lagers, folks. Link.
- The “Maine Beer Box” is shipping U.S. craft beer to Iceland. Link.
- Here’s a good long form article on barleywine. Link.
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Thank you for reading and your support! 😎👍🍻
2017 craft beer trends , Alarmist Brewing , Alulu , Barleywine , Beer Temple , Beer Under Glass , Brian Grossman , Centennial , Chicago Beer Classic , chicago craft beer week , Dave Eisenberg , Finch Beer Co. , Forbidden Root , Gino's East Brewing , Good Beer Hunting , Grand Rapids , Hopleaf , Jim Kock , lagers , Maine Beer Box , Malort , Maproom , Marz Community Brewing , Mexican beer , Samuel Adams , Sierra Nevada , Smithsonian beer historian , U.S. Brews Association , White Sox