At the same time (time being a term used to describe my explanation of history, not history itself), beer has highs and lows. As we say at the homebrew shop, if you can boil water, you can make beer. Making good beer, however, is a little more involved. But, the fact is, making beer isn’t hard. It’s why it’s been around for so long. It’s a way to make dirty water clean and taste good, with some fun after effects.
Some good beer has been around for a long time. Orval was born in 1070 AD. That’s almost a millennium ago. That’s about four times older than America. Correction: As an astute reader pointed out, construction on what would become Orval began in 1070. The beer has only beer around since 1931. Less fun, but still a long time.
Meanwhile, Budweiser is the most sold beer in the world. And today, August 30th, 2010, craft beer sales are growing faster than their macro competitors. Significantly faster. And I’m using significant in the true scientific 5% sense. In fact, macro sales have been down the past few years. And craft – as defined by the Brewer’s Association – is up.
Craft brewing has been around for a long time, but it’s had a recent resurgence. Sierra Nevada, arguably one of the forerunners of craft beer in America, started in 1979. 31 years ago. Now, while I don’t expect to be mature when I turn 31, it looks like craft beer is starting to mature.
In the past few months, some of the bigger, older, more well known, and sometimes the obscure, but in general, some microbreweries have been bought up by bigger companies. There have been mergers, acquisitions, and other business terms that don’t belong on a beer blog.
Anchor Brewing has been rolled up into Anchor Brewers & Distillers LLC, a group owned by the guys who took Skyy from a no name to one of the most recognized vodka brands in the world. Included in the portfolio are Junipero Gin and Old Potrero Whisky. Read more in the press release and article.
The Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. (CBAI) recently purchased Kona Brewing outright, adding Kona to their portfolio of Redhook Brewery and Widmer Brothers Brewing. CBAI also distributes Goose Island, though Goose Island is not wholly owned by CBAI. Read more.
On top of all these major acquisitions, many, many, many smaller craft brewers have been merging or buying out other breweries.
This goes a bit beyond collaboration brews.
It looks like the craft beer industry is maturing. While there has always been a tipping point, where a craft brewery goes from squeezing every penny out of every pint to having excess cash to spend on growth and marketing, it appears that craft breweries are starting to be recognized as legitimate businesses. Less than a half dozen breweries make up over 90% of the total volume and dollars of beer sold in America, and more than 1,400 breweries make the 10% left. But of those 1,400, a few are breaking through and being considered a worthy investment.
I’m not an economist. Or a speculator. Or really anyone with any sort of intelligence for this level of business. But, that qualifier aside, it appears that craft beer is getting the recognition it’s been striving for. For better or for worse. Good beer isn’t just a fad. It isn’t just a trend. It’s here to stay, it’s growing rapidly, and people like it.
Many industries go through this change. Skiing had a similar roll up recently, with almost all the brands being rolled up into three companies. And then another 50 sprouted in the wake.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing that some of the biggest, most well known, most consumed breweries are being bought up, rolled up, and combined. It’s been happening for a while, and some breweries, like Unibroue, continue to make amazing beer under corporate rule. Did you know they’re owned by Sapporo?
Maybe this will make good beer more accessible. Maybe it will be the end of this phase of the craft beer revolution.
Or maybe we will soon experience better beer than the world has ever seen. Better beer than you or I can possible imagine.
Or maybe nothing will change at all.
What do you think?
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