On Craft Beer

I finally got a chance to see the documentary film Beer Wars. It's very good and I'd recommend it to anyone with any interest in beer or the business behind it.

(from Rex Pechler on Flickr)

Occasionally I hear a discussion about why the craft beer industry is growing even as sales from the giant brewers are on the decline. It seems like the obvious answer is: big-name light beer just isn't that good. And once people have had a taste of something they really like, they're going to stick with it.

At the same time, the film gets into interesting issues about distribution and retail shelf placement. Sure, I have my favorite beers, and I know where to get them. But I can't get them at the Harris Teeter near my house. That supermarket is heavily stocked with light beers and stuff from the giant corporate brewers. So for me, it's a lot less convenient to get good craft beers. Not impossible, but not simple, either.

So it makes you wonder what people would be buying if they could get anything at the store that's most convenient to their home? In theory, people would be buying even more craft beer. So it's understandable that the giants are doing everything in their power to hoard shelf space wherever they can.


    On October 18, 2010 Mel said...

    With the exception of ONE grocery store in the Pittsburgh area, some 30 minutes away from downtown, we have to buy our beer from a specialized store (and this is only by the case or keg). But only because this Market District is "technically" a cafe with alcohol on the premises, they got around the state laws. And even then, you are regulated to a cap of quantity per person/purchase. I like the idea of growlers here too, with the ability to fill up a half gallon from a tap at several bar around the area.

    I won't drink the crap mass-produced beer, so the drive to the beer store is well worth the craft beer selections.

    We are also charged an additional 7% tax on alcohol here. I have no idea what it's for -- and while fascinating, I can only imagine how that money is being mismanaged.


    Pennsylvania's laws really are quite frustrating. I've often wondered how the inability to sell beer and wine affects profitability of a store like Whole Foods, which seems to do good beer and wine sales at a lot of its stores.