If you can’t find a beer you like in the United States these days, you’re either looking with your eyes closed or you simply don’t like beer. Over 5,000 breweries and counting have set up shop from coast to coast, all offering different atmospheres, different business models, and different portfolios. One common thread each shares is a dedication to ingenuity – always looking to create the world’s next best beer and pushing the envelope in an effort to drive independent beer culture forward.
A popular topic of conversation often revolves around the ‘craft beer bubble.’ Does it really exist? If so, is it about to break? How much beer is ‘too much beer?’
The answer seems simple on the surface: how could too much beer be a problem?! But times are most definitely changing. We’ve seen breweries who had grown a nationwide distribution footprint scale back their reach, showing that a beer drinker’s preference for more local offerings continues to grow as more breweries enter the fray. It’s important to note that a beer doesn’t necessarily have to be born in your hometown to be great. But in regards to the freshest beer possible, it gets no better than visiting a brewery’s taproom and enjoying a product created just feet from your bar stool.
For years, the major battle has been craft beer vs. ‘big beer.’ Without question, this battle still rages on and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, a large number of drinkers have made the transition to craft and, as you and I both know, switching back to a product void of flavor or creativity quite frankly offers no appeal.
So now that more drinkers are on the independent beer bandwagon, what can breweries do to keep them enjoying this ride for years to come? Priority one, obviously, is continue to brew kick ass products. But beyond that, you’re beginning to see breweries take additional steps to keep us coming back for more. Upping their attention to education. Giving drinkers the respect they deserve. Doing more limited releases. Developing more aggressive packaging solutions with canning solutions leading the charge. All this adds a new layer to an already-established and thriving business model.
Other breweries have begun opening additional locations – some to accommodate increased production demands, others to provide an additional experience for their guests that helps further build loyalty with their brand. In Butler, PA, Reclamation Brewing has been operating their brewpub on South Main Street for nearly three years on the foundation of dynamic pub food and beer brewed on the belief that craft offerings don’t have to be snobby…they just shouldn’t be crap. Now, they’re taking their game to a new level with a callback to the days of Prohibition.
Reclamation Brewing will officially be opening the doors of the RB Cigar Bar and Speakeasy on Friday, March 23rd starting at 4:00pm. Located just a few doors down from their brewpub on South Main Street in the basement of the Cornerstone Commons Building in Downtown Butler, this new establishment recreates the true feel of a 1920s speakeasy and features a walk-in humidor with hundreds of cigars to choose from, whiskey, wines, and beers from Reclamation and other local and regional Pittsburgh breweries.
“We’re incredibly excited to be opening up and giving people yet another opportunity to enjoy great craft beer along with other great Pennsylvania made wines and spirits,” Reclamation co-owner and Butler Mayor Ben Smith claimed. “We don’t have any independent verification of this, but as far as we can tell, we’re the first brewery in the state to open a cigar bar. That’s pretty exciting as well.”
The beer scene in Butler has grown by leaps and bounds since Reclamation first cut their ribbon in 2015. In addition to Reclamation, four other breweries – Butler Brew Works, Cellar Works Brewing, Recon Brewing, and Missing Links Brewery – all operate within miles of one another. While one may think this creates a super-competitive environment, it’s quite the opposite. All realize they’re part of the growth and development of Butler County and their collective efforts have transformed their corner of the world into a destination for beer enthusiasts, providing several stopping points within a tight radius for you to enjoy. The new speakeasy adds a new alternative to the itinerary.
“Butler has become an awesome place for craft beer and the scene that goes along with it,” Smith proclaimed. “Everyone gets along really well and we work together quite often. Butler Brew Works, Recon and Reclamation recently did a collaboration brew that will be released April 4th at each location and it was a great experience. We do everything together from events to combining grain orders. It’s a great relationship. We’re also excited about the other breweries nearby and hope to be working with them more closely in the future as well.”
The RB Cigar Bar and Speakeasy will also offer membership in a Cigar Club that’ll feature benefits and perks to its members. This new establishment will also allow Reclamation to continue focusing on their beer while appealing to a new demographic of enthusiast. Not only will they be educating consumers on the nuances of craft beer, they’ll also contribute to the burgeoning cigar and whiskey industries simultaneously. There is a world of cigar and beer pairing options at your disposal, and residents and visitors of Butler will now have this experience at their disposal each and every week.
“The great thing about having the brewpub just a few doors down is that if you want to grab dinner, you can do that before or after you come down for a cigar and a great beer or cocktail – or you can even bring food in,” Smith explained. “Each place has a different vibe, but we’ve heard from numerous people that both places still have that familiar, comfortable feel. We really think that many people will be customers at both locations, but overall we just want to see the city continue to thrive and we’re honored to be any small piece of that.”
If you’re reading this and are not a fan of cigar smoke, rest easy. According to Smith, you can still enjoy the speakeasy sans an overcast of excess smoke.
“People who are adverse to cigar smoke will likely still feel comfortable at the speakeasy,” Smith said. “We’ve got three industrial smokeaters, a great HVAC system, exhaust and fresh air intake. You’ll definitely know that people are smoking cigars, but there won’t be a haze hanging around.”
Where is the beer world headed? That loaded question may be too complicated to answer confidently at this point. But thankfully, the industry is filled with forward-thinking men and women striving to deliver the best products and best experiences possible. The industry will continue to morph and take new directions. Through it all, we’ll never be thirsty. And now, thanks to Reclamation Brewing, we’ll always have a home for a fine cigar.