The first Friday in October ’13 brings us Session #80, where Derek Harrison at It’s Not Just The Alcohol Talking asks, ‘Is Craft Beer a Bubble?‘.
I’m no economist, and in any case economics is a soft science at best, so I guess it doesn’t matter, but here’s my take.
No matter what the relative competence of a brewery in terms of what they brew, or indeed competence in terms of their business plan, infrastructure, finances and strategies, as long as their beer actually SELLS, then it’s entirely possible for incompetent, ‘bad’ breweries, to survive. In some cases, in particular in America, these breweries even thrive. So, that brings us to the American craft beer market.
The ‘craft‘ beer drinking public in the USA is still a pretty ignorant one, and much more importantly an incredibly non-discerning one. Despite many years of hysteria, I see no let up in the appetite for ‘the latest, biggest and most brash‘ beer, nor any restraint being applied to the accompanying excessive praise for every new brewer and brewery that pops up. Fads happen by the minute here, with sours, barrel-aged, saison, ‘session’ beer (as opposed to real @sessionbeer), Wild Ales etc., all taking turns to be the flavor of the month.
I think there is a reason for this and it’s a pretty simple one. The American psyche is built on optimism, a can-do attitude, and a generally upbeat approach to EVERYTHING. This is especially true in the home of rampant capitalism when it comes to business of ANY kind. Americans love nothing more that a ‘local start-up’, with its ‘roots in the community’ using ‘local ingredients/labor’ and a story of ‘boy done good’. So many breweries operate out of this genesis that it catches the eye of the American craft drinker, and they seem to oblivious to mediocre and bad beer and are willing to prop up and support these brewers by buying product.
Normally one would expect the market to correct this but for now the ignorance in the market, rules.