Options, options, and even more options! We are currently smack dab in the middle of a craft beer culture that seems to offer limitless possibilities. From the hoppiest IPA to the sourest sour and everything in between, it’s impossible to walk away from your favorite establishments unsatisfied with SOMETHING on the tap list or in the to-go cooler. The innovation that drives the creation of some of the most unique brews containing the most unique ingredients is enough to keep our pint glasses endlessly full while always pondering, “Just what in the hell will they do next?”
One of the biggest battles craft beer brands have fought over the years is the acquisition of shelf space. Due to the big breweries occupying the vast majority of space via a multitude of packaging options, the struggle to catch a consumer’s attention wasn’t always easy because just a small section was reserved for crafts. Now, the craft beer section is bursting in multitude as well…to the point retailers have to be selective about what meets the consumer’s eyes. This has created a competitive atmosphere for craft beer brewers all over the country.
In 2013, craft beer sales rose 17.2% from 2012. Just recently, the Brewers Association released information that stated over 3,000 craft breweries are now in operation in the United States. And a handful of those established breweries are expanding their operations and opening second breweries. It’s a simple case of supply rising to meet demand in principle. But there’s also the element of ‘manifest destiny’ tied to this influx of new breweries as well, with many brewers on a mission to stake their claim and reshape the beer industry in the likeness and vision of craft brewers before them.
The influx of new breweries and the greater demand have forced craft brewers to step up their games and the beers they’ve created are nothing short of mind-blowing! But what seems to be a hot topic of debate is not just how innovative these beers are, but are the extreme variety of choices this innovation has spawned actually a detriment to you, the beer drinker?
Being a guy who loves options, I’ve never had an issue perusing a beer menu with a huge variety of choices. However, a novice beer drinker may find themselves overwhelmed when staring down the barrel at over 100+ tap options under one roof. Where do I begin? What’s the best? What if one is better than another? It can be overwhelming when visiting your local bottle shop or picking up a sixer at the grocery store, too. Now that options are so abundant, which one of these options will best satiate my craving for a solid beer?
Ultimately, that last paragraph points to the simple fact we too often take for granted the good things available to us. If the options weren’t there, we’d pout. Now that the options are there in droves, we pout harder? Something’s unbalanced there.
Competition brings out the best in everyone. From the standpoint of beer, the competition and wide variety of choices is a win-win for all involved. The brewers can continue to be innovative and proud of what they produce, which will lead to a sustainable business. Purveyors of these beers can continue to keep their tap lists fresh for their consumers. And consumers can enjoy a world of beer that, just as little as 4-5 years ago, barely existed.
Through consistent deviation and willingness to try different beers, you’ll more than likely develop loyalty to a few breweries as time goes on. This will keep you trying their new offerings, as well as beers from other craft breweries to see if their offerings “measure up” on your own personal measuring stick. Not only is this fun, but it keeps your palate and your list of favorites always evolving.
If your biggest hangup on craft beer is knowledge of what to try, don’t hesitate to ask your bartender or bottle shop representative. These days, craft beer establishments employ knowledgeable beer enthusiasts who are more than willing to help you find a great beer specific to your tastes and overall expectations. Even when I know what I’m after (IPAs 9 times out of 10), I always like to get the slant of the purveyors to see if they have a recommendation for something I may not have tried yet. In a world full of options, guidance is vital…and, these days, just a few feet away.
As we look at the direction craft beer is heading, it’s hard to see a leveling-off or decline point at this date and time. But it’s important to embrace this incredible period and use it to introduce beer drinkers to the craft beer fold and show them the world of options they’ve been missing. It may take time, but they’ll be thankful you did at some point in the future.
What do YOU think? Do you love all the options or do you find it overwhelming? Weigh in with your Comments below!