January 10, 2012

Outside the Glass

There are, I'm sure, some well reasoned and insightful blog posts on what 2012 will bring. This one, just hit my feed, though I haven't read it yet. I know that locally, Andy Ingram is preparing a piece for his Arizona Republic Beer Buzz column. [Edit: that Ingram piece now linked here.] Instead of waiting for his to come out and write a reaction piece, I thought I'd say my peace.

I could take a stab about new trends, that I hope will happen or throw our some forgettable statistic that I think will be exceeded. It's tempting to hint at some gossip, I've heard or reveal some things that I know to be true that will come to light with the fullness of time. It would make me look good, but I'm not sure it has any other use.

Here's what I think will happen, because it simply has to. Will it happen enough so in 2012 that I can pull this post up in December and declare victory? Probably not.

I believe that the revolution inside the glass has been won. Small brewers (craft, if you will), proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they could produce a new product that would support a new kind of brewery (micro, if you will). But this war was a very small war. You can fight it over and over if you want, but the results will be the same and the relatively small war chest (5% market) will be the same. All things being equal, most people have access to innumerable beers that are of superior quality. There is more beer available to Phoenix than anyone can reasonably tire of. Sure there are some that have ticked through 10,000 beers in Beer Review World, but can anyone really tell you anything about beer #746? Or this year's #746? Or the #746 in cans? Or #746 under Brewmaster 1.5 vs 3.5?

As consumers, we've never had it so good. Anyone old enough to remember a time when Andeker and Lowenbrau were considered premium American beers and finding a Import beer bar that serves Ayinger, Watneys Red Barrel was a godsend will confirm this. We have so much access to quality that we've had to create our own enemies. When were not raging against the macro beer industrial complex, we're eating our own. I can't even come to terms with the fact that Sam Caligione has to log into Beer Advocate to tell people his brewery doesn't suck.

It's pretty depressing to frequently visit this site and see the most negative threads among the most popular. This didn't happen much ten years ago when craft beer had something like a 3 percent market share. Flash forward to today, and true indie craft beer now has a still-tiny but growing marketshare of just over 5 percent. Yet so many folks that post here still spend their time knocking down breweries that dare to grow. It's like that old joke: "Nobody eats at that restaurant anymore, it's too crowded.” Except the "restaurants" that people shit on here aren't exactly juggernauts. In fact, aside from Boston Beer, none of them have anything even close to half of one percent marketshare. The more that retailers, distributors, and large industrial brewers consolidate the more fragile the current growth momentum of the craft segment becomes. The more often the Beer Advocate community becomes a soap box for outing breweries for daring to grow beyond its insider ranks the more it will be marginalized in the movement to support, promote, and protect independent ,American, craft breweries.
It's interesting how many posts that refer to Dogfish being over-rated include a caveat like "except for Palo...except for Immort...etc." We all have different palettes which is why it's a great thing that there are so many different beers. At Dogfish we've been focused on making "weird" beers since we opened and have taken our lumps for being stylistically indifferent since day one. I bet a lot of folks agree that beers like Punkin Ale (since 1995) , Immort Ale (wood aged smoked beer) since 1995, Chicory Stout (coffee stout) since 1995 , Raison D'ĂȘtre (Belgian brown) since 1996, , Indian Brown Ale (dark IPA) since 1997, and 90 Minute (DIPA) since 2000 don't seem very weird anymore. That’s in large part because so many people who have been part of this community over the years championed them and helped us put them on the map.These beers, and all of our more recent releases like Palo Santo, Burton Baton, Bitches Brew continue to grow every year. We could have taken the easy way out and just sold the bejeezus out of 60 Minute to grow but we like to experiment and create and follow our own muse. Obviously there is an audience that appreciates this as we continue to grow. We put no more "hype" or "expert marketing" behind our best selling beers than we do our occasionals. We only advertise in a few beer magazines and my wife Mariah oversees all of our twitter/Facebook/dogfish.com stuff. We have mostly grown by just sharing our beer with people who are into it (at our pub, great beer bars, beer dinners, and fests) and let them decide for themselves if they like it. If they do we hope they tell their friends about. We hope a bunch of you that are going to EBF will stop by our booth and try some of the very unique new beers we are proudly bringing to market like Tweason'ale (a champagne-esque, gluten-free beer fermented with buckwheat honey and strawberries) and Noble Rot (a sort of saison brewed with Botrytis-infected Viognier Grape must). One of these beers is on the sweeter side and one is more sour. Knowing each of your palettes is unique you will probably prefer one over the other. That doesn't mean the one you didn't prefer sucked. And the breweries you don't prefer but are growing don't suck either. Respect Beer. The below was my favorite post thus far.
This thread is hilarious. Seriously, Bells, Founders, FFF, Surly, RR, DFH, Bruery, Avery, Cigar City, Mikkeller are all overrated?
Since I'm from Ohio, I'll pile on and add Great Lakes, Hoppin Frog, and Brew Kettle to the list. Your welcome.
Hopefully soon we will have every craft brewery in the US on the list.

Image: Wikicommons
So some of us will keep fighting the war inside the glass. That war is now comparing a Ratebeer 86 to a BeerAdvocate 93. We're creating a new General from within the ranks from the Florida Division and pitting him against General Caligione in the Delaware Regulars as if we are little boys playing with tin soldiers.

The world exists outside the glass my beer brothers and sisters. That is where beer is enjoyed. That's were I live. That's what needs to get better. For the most part, that's local.

1 comment:

  1. By the way, the Delaware Regulars as you call them are more properly called the Fighting Blue Hens...