As we enter the 8th year of American Craft Beer Week, I wanted to take a closer look at this annual happening, as well as the entire Beer Week Gimmick. No doubt, celebrating and promoting craft beer is a wonderful thing. It’s something The Full Pint does daily and year round. The one question that needs to be asked is, has the concept of Beer Week jumped the shark, or put another way, played itself out?
I recall as a child asking my parents if I could have Christmas or my birthday every day. In that same line of questioning, I’d explain I’d like to have ice cream for all 3 meals every day. I was met with a very logical response: if it was your birthday every day, it wouldn’t be something special to celebrate. In the early years of American Craft Beer Week or NAME-YOUR-CITY Beer Week, it seemed like a revolutionary, empowering showcase of just how special craft beer is to the current enthusiastic fan base, as well as a method of recruiting those not familiar to the niche culture we’re proud to be a part of. Fast forward to 2014, and I’m afraid to say, the luster is all but gone.
Years ago, the only craft beer the masses knew about was Sam Adams Boston Lager, Anchor Steam, and whatever boring micro brew was brewed at their local brew pub. While they might not have been the first, I consider Philly Beer Week to be the pioneers of the craft beer week movement. They’d draw attention to all the then-unknown craft beers of the north east region, and did so with well thought out festivals, pairing dinners, and with a bit of justified chest pounding. The message was loud and clear, craft beer isn’t a fad, it’s very special, it’s a full fledged industry, and it’s here to stay. Quickly, other culinary savvy metropolitan areas of the country took notice and started their own version of Craft Beer Week. San Francisco, San Diego, Portland Oregon and Los Angeles all took this new idea and made it their own.
Has The Beer Week Gimmick Jumped The Shark?
The Beer Week phenomenon has turned into a gigantic monster in my opinion. Every city, large or small picks 10 days or so out of the year, and now large states are carving themselves up geographically to have the North South, East and West State Beer Weeks. Which raises a minor question that I thought I knew the answer to: When was 10 days ever considered a week? Anyway, we now have every corner of the country getting in on the beer week action, but what’s making these moments so special?
Largely, these beer weeks are comprised of beer festivals, tap takeovers, pairing dinners, meet the brewer nights, collaboration brews between a few local breweries. That all sounds awesome right? It would be if all these things weren’t going on 365 days of the year, regardless of whether it’s Beer Week or not. Just to use my home turf of Los Angeles as an example, 5 years ago or so, there weren’t that many craft beer bars and almost no breweries to call our own. Today, we have near 50 or so craft beer bars, a few dozen breweries, and huge presence from the medium sized power house craft brewers of Southern California clawing for our craft beer money. If you can’t find an amazing beer event to attend here in LA once a week, you aren’t looking.
Everyone unloads their entire arsenal. Many events are duplicated, or overlap one another. There will be a point where the enthusiast and the noobie will both look at a beer week schedule and realize they could do these types of events any day of the year, and that Beer Week has turned into a mere gimmick for pub owners and breweries to sell a couple extra pints.
The only way I can see Beer Week remaining a special yearly attraction is to follow this formula: hold an opening event, a closing event, and nice unique events in between, show casing local breweries and great examples of how craft beer just might be the most versatile adult beverage on the market. While certain breweries love taking advantage of packing those 7 to 10 days, each brewery should only be allowed one special event, to not step on other breweries or craft beer bars toes. If Craft Beer is the united brotherhood they claim to be, they should work together to keep these annual occurrences as special as your favorite holiday, and not just another forgettable “keep the glass night” event.