Your Favorite Local Brewery is Not Selling Out
It’s getting easier and easier to get my hands on craft beer these days. This wasn’t the case just a few years ago, but with the rising popularity of craft beer, with it’s attractive margin, and the reputation of bringing higher quality consumers in the door, places you and I wouldn’t consider a place to grab good beer are now carrying it.
There are many angles that the wide availability of good craft beers are being viewed. There’s the perspective of the mom and pop retailer, the consumer, and what I’d like to refer to as the local craft brewer that has the decision of whether to “go commercial” or not.
The Mom and Pop Retailer
Mom and Pop retailer is some cases is your corner liquor store that pedals cigarettes, lotto tickets, cocoa cola and candy bars to keep their bills paid. In the last 5 or 6 years, the one stop shop for all your 18 packs and smokes began selling “them microbrews.” As craft beer became more popular, many liquor store owners began taking notice that a new crowd, not concerned with smokes and old beef jerky, were coming in and buying single bottles of beer for the same price of a six pack of swill. Liquor stores today are proud to sell craft beer. You will see case displays, decals on the door, and usually one cashier is known as “the beer guy”, who will gladly hold a special bottle for you so you can pick it up after work.
The inspiration for this article however, is the vocal venom coming from these mom and pop shop owners. We are in the beginning stages of a race to the top 3 spots in the craft beer sector. Right now, Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium Brewing are in those spots. How did they get there? They positioned themselves that way. Being in airports, being in chain restaurants, super markets, being at warehouse stores like Costco and Sams Club is what keeps the beer flowing and selling. There are craft breweries that I wish not to name that started off like an awesome indy band or a little known secret, which in turn provided a partially secret underground culture of those in the know. Liquor stores/mom and pop shops felt like they were part of the movement, and helped foster this fancy culture. Now that some of the little guys are scrapping for the top spots, there are natural measures that need to be taken in order to….wait for it…..sell more beer. Well, unfortunately, not every liquor store understands that or sees it that way. Now that the big guys like Costco and Trader Joes have jumped on the craft beer train, there is less beer being sent to the small stores, or at least that’s how it’s being perceived.
I was in my local trader Joes and actually overheard two guys cursing at the large display case of a very popular IPA that’s being sold nearly two dollars less than what they charge at their liquor store, and TJ’s got quadruple the inventory. Late last week, a local liquor store took to Facebook calling out a brewery for “forgetting the small guys” in favor of Costco. Whether or not they are right or wrong, this is how they feel. Read on for my solution for liquor stores to feel at ease.
Years ago, there were special releases from some of my local breweries that I would have to drive around to get. These special beers would come out yearly, and would fly off the shelf in a matter of a day or two. For the same reason I don’t like lining up for an iPhone release or standing in line for a movie premiere at midnight, I don’t like working too hard to get my hands on a beer. Luckily, some of the breweries that I used to have to burn calories to get my hands on now are readily available. Now that I can go to Target, Trader Joes or Costco, not only do I have easy access to some of my favorite brands, I’m paying less, and in theory, I have a better chance of not getting too old of a product.
Your favorite local craft brewery that “Goes Commerical”
Whether you feel righteous as a consumer, not wanting to support the big national store, or you are the liquor store owner who feels abandoned by the once small brewery, don’t. There is a new brewery popping up every day, and still many specialty items that will never make it to the big stores. I love my local liquor store, but I love the money in my wallet a bit more. There will always be a new craft beer coming to market, and the perfect home for this new unproven brand is at your local mom and pop shop. The breweries that have grown to the next step, and have their goals set high have to brew more beer and sell more beer. If that wasn’t the goal for most breweries, they wouldn’t be in business for very long.
If you really love your once small craft brewery, you should be happy for them that they’ve made it to the big time. I have faith that they will continue to produce a quality product, you should too. Your favorite local craft brewery is not selling out, they are converting new people to the same wonderful stuff you’ve known about for years.