Thursday, July 06, 2006
The Brew Lounge 'Topic of the Week': Can the Macro Segment do Craft Beer well?
Ah yes, the topic of the macro segment of beer making. Can they do craft beer imitations? Of course they can. Are they permitted to do it? Yes. Will they do it? Certainly. Should they do it? Well, I suppose, that based on their business model and the direction of their current economic position, they definitely will. Do I want them to? Absolutely not! But, really, why should we care that much about what the macros are doing? In all honesty, I don't know if it much matters. Though, I do think it would be interesting to understand how much of the growth in craft beer that we hear so much about is due to new customers coming over from the macro side (the dark side?). Because, if the answer is that there are really not that many converts, then let the macros do whatever they want to confuse their customers who just love light, fizzy crap. And, let us continue to enjoy the phenomenal work that so many brewers are doing in the realm of craft/microbrewing. I will admit that I don't have statistics to support my argument. But, it goes something like this. Whether a brewer/operator is taking home $20k, $50k, $100k, or $200k, I don't get the sense that the folks who are doing craft beer at least moderately well are cashing welfare checks. What I'm trying to say is that even for the brewers on the less well-compensated end of the spectrum, they are doing well enough to survive. Would I like to see them taking home more reward for their efforts? Hell, yes! But, do I think that the macro segment doing craft-imitation beer represents competition that they need to match both on style, quality, and/or price? No way! As the well-publicized numbers show, craft beer continues to grow impressively on a annual basis, while the macro segment continues to lose business. If I'm not mistaken, the belief is that the wine and spirits segments are absorbing most of their losses. So, really, I'm not that concerned with what the macro segment is doing in terms of different styles. I mean, after all...Blue Moon, Bare Knuckle, B-to-the-E, Demons Hopyard...do these interpretations really give you any pause to think that someday you'll switch over from a Belgian or German wheat, an American or Irish stout, a fruit or lambic beer, or an American IPA that you have been enjoying for all of these years? It's not like we've been waiting for a new interpretation because a better one hasn't existed. And, I would bet that the an overwhelmingly large percentage of the A-M-C crowd may simply give one of these "new" styles a try and then go back to their macro muck. I don't see much changeover in tastes from someone sworn to yellow swill to real beer. The other perspective on this issue of macros dabbling in craft beer is their financial involvement in companies like Red Hook, Widmer, and Goose Island. We'll make this a subject of a future 'Topic of the Week'.