In the past couple of months there have been two topics that have stood out to me in the craft beer community. Both are quite interesting and could turn into two (or more) bigger in depth discussions, but I felt that the two discussion points do meet at a particular interesting point. I will touch on NJ a bit as it’s what I’m most familiar with but I would believe that this could be the case for much of the country.
To start, let’s go with “Drinking Local”… Now, the push for drinking local is not a new thing by any means. Eating local and supporting local businesses have been quite the movement for years now, and for good reason. The reason I bring this up on this post is because a recent study showed that “local” was a better/easier selling point for beer than “high quality”. Now, for the novice beer drinker this makes a lot of sense. I mean “high quality” can be thrown around as an opinion. Not to mention, if you are looking to try a new beer (in most cases craft beer) you are assuming all craft beer is “high quality” as opposed to macros. Now the more seasoned craft beer drinker hardly needs a selling point. They know what they want, either the brewery or style of beer. Again, in that case a new “local” beer could be a great selling point. The disconnect occurs when the customer is truly seasoned and knows that they prefer a brewery from another state and are not too fond of their “local” brewery.
Hold on to that last thought. This is where I enter the other topic of the Craft Beer “Bubble”. Now many of you long time beer geeks, much like myself and the the industry in general have striven for one thing. What we all wanted was to have good craft beer readily available. Unfortunately, along the way we see a lot of side effects that we quite don’t care for. If you’ve been following craft beer for some time, you will be familiar with the current state of craft beer. I’ve seen people chase bottles for the hype. Either because it’s cool or because they want to profit from it, the hype is something that cannot be forever sustained if it’s not solely based on the love of the craft/beer. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I too believe craft beer is here to stay. I do believe the numbers will continue to grow. It’s only now that the number of breweries is back to what it was in pre Prohibition times. The Craft Beer Bubble, however, will come into play when the speed of the growth of craft beer “drinkers” or should I say consumers begins to slow down. The overabundance and over-saturation of the market with beers and breweries will become an issue. This is when the “bubble” itself “pops”. That is to say, something just won’t last. This is a natural cycle and will always happen in craft beer. We won’t ever be reduced back to what we had two decades ago, but there will be casualties whenever the bubble pops.
Here is where I have to bring the two things together. With more and more talk about the craft beer bubble, we’ve had some big names in the industry give their opinion. Many of which point out that the people who have not been around as long and have jumped on lately will be the likely casualties of the bubble popping. This is where my personal opinion and feelings come in to play. Being in NJ, I’ve watched two newer breweries create the most hype that I’ve ever seen in the state. Not because they are new or trendy or any sort of gimmick. Carton Brewing out of the Atlantic Highlands and Kane Brewing out of Ocean are making some of the best beers I can order in a bar or restaurant. Not just some of the best beers made in the state, they are making beers that can stand with the best in the country. They get it. Their beers show that they are true to the craft. With all due respect to the older breweries in NJ, I have not felt enticed to speak up about any NJ Craft Brewery until Carton and Kane came along. In the end, when the craft beer bubble pops, I would be willing to bet on these two newer breweries outlasting many of the older breweries.
While I have focused on NJ here, I can say the same about some of the newer breweries that quickly became favorites of mine the last few years including Crooked Stave, Hill Farmstead and Funkwerks. So in my opinion, drink what’s good. If it’s local, even better… and those that are doing it right will survive and Craft Beer Bubble burst.