The rise of craft beer — beer made by small independent operations/breweries — is a phenomenon that’s changing the beer scene in countless ways. Whether it’s the fresh flavors and ingredients or the health benefits, consumers love this type of beverage and are willing to pay for it.
The craft beer industry is ripe for innovation as key pressures force producers to evolve in different ways. These include external consumer demands, natural resources and supply chain challenges, and changing consumer delivery preferences.
1. It?s More Local
Craft beer is a unique style of brewing that’s becoming more popular. It’s not just a way to enjoy delicious flavors; it also has many benefits for the environment.
Craft breweries tend to be smaller and have a stronger connection with the community they operate in. They often support local charities and are involved in green initiatives that help to promote environmental awareness.
While craft beer can be produced anywhere in the world, many breweries choose to source their ingredients from local farms. This reduces transportation and fuel costs, which can lead to lower carbon emissions.
The brewing process can be very water-intensive, so it’s important to find suppliers that are committed to using sustainable methods. This means working with farmers to reduce their water consumption and waste.
This practice can be more costly for breweries, but it’s an excellent investment in the future of the industry and is helping to create a more sustainable beer scene.
For example, a recent NPR report found that beer drinkers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced beers. This is because consumers are starting to see the impact that their individual choices have on climate change and water conservation.
A major component of a brewery’s sustainability is the grain that it uses. This is why the craft brewing industry is beginning to focus more on organic farming and reducing its impact on the environment.
In the past, most brewing companies shipped their grain across the country to a mill or malt house. However, a group of Northeast brewers have formed the Northeast Grainshed Alliance to build a regional grain supply chain that supports local farmland one pint at a time.
The organization helps brewers to get their grain from nearby farmers and is working on developing more local barley sources. As a result, more of the grain that goes into brewing can be grown right here in the United States.
The craft beer scene is becoming more diverse and more exciting in the years to come. As it continues to evolve, many new breweries will continue to open up and expand.
2. It?s More Sustainable
The beer scene has seen an uptick in all-natural, local, GMO-free and carbon neutral options from microbreweries to big national institutions. These earth benefiting practices aren’t just for the environment but can be good business as well.
Craft breweries are more committed to sustainability than ever before, and in many cases they’re leading the charge. This has become more of a focus as consumers look for ways to support their communities, and the environmental impact of brewing is often an important part of that.
In order to become more sustainable, a brewery has to take a hard look at its production process. They need to consider things like how much water they use and how much energy they consume, as these can disproportionately impact the planet.
One of the biggest challenges a brewer faces is reducing water usage, but they can take small steps to reduce their impact. A brewery can use flow meters to track waste around the facility, and if they use them correctly, it can save them money on chemicals that could be used elsewhere.
Another way to make a difference is to consider how they transport their products. Some brewers are using biodegradable six-pack holders instead of plastic ones, which can decrease their carbon footprint significantly.
A small change can make a huge difference, especially when it’s something that’s easy to implement. For example, a brewer can make a big difference by sending their spent grain to bakers who can turn it into bread, as Henderson Brewing in Toronto does.
While it’s impossible to be completely sustainable, craft breweries can work on making their business more eco-friendly without compromising their quality. They can take steps to better understand their supply chain, and work with farmers who are growing their barley responsibly.
Taking sustainability seriously shows customers that a business is concerned about their impact on the world, and they’re willing to make changes. It also demonstrates a long-term view, which is important for any business. It can help attract employees who value the company’s commitment to the environment and a healthy planet.
3. It?s More Diverse
The craft beer industry, which started in the 1980s when microbreweries began taking on large alcohol conglomerates for refrigerator space in grocery stores, is becoming more diverse and more fun. Millennials, in particular, have helped craft breweries disrupt a market structure that has long been dominated by a small number of big players, according to researchers at Tilburg University and Chicago Booth School of Business.
In recent years, the craft beer sector has seen a rapid increase in sales and volume, as millennials have become increasingly interested in artisanal products. Unlike older generations, however, this generation is less familiar with the craft beer industry and its nuances. That means breweries have to make their products stand out in order to capture their attention.
One way they do this is through their flavors and brewing philosophies, which can be more diverse than traditional beer styles. For example, Rochester, New York, brewery Black and Blue has a line of beers that are both flavorful and low in calories.
Another way brewers are embracing diversity is through education. Pittsburgh’s Fresh Fest, for instance, has a virtual beer festival that brings together Black brewers to share their recipes and discuss their philosophies in a virtual party setting.
Some breweries are also bringing in BIPOC talent to the production floor through paid internships. Tired Hands, for example, in Brooklyn, has an intern program that allows people with a background in chemistry or biology to gain hands-on experience on the production floor. They’ve hired two people through the program since it began in 2017, and Foster says they’re hoping to expand it in the future.
While breweries have been making strides in creating more diversity within the industry, there are still barriers to entry. Access to money and education are major hurdles, but a growing number of breweries are finding ways to funnel their best candidates into technical education programs.
With direct-to-consumer shipping becoming more common, breweries are looking to grow their businesses beyond the bottle shop or bar and into online retail. While this trend isn’t new, it’s an emerging area for growth and could be particularly lucrative for craft breweries in the coming years as it expands.
4. It?s More Fun
The brewers of today make beer in a wide range of styles. From traditional ales to stouts, lagers to ciders and even non-alcoholic offerings, craft beer is the future of a once-struggling industry.
Unlike the macro-brewed beers you can find at your local grocery store, craft brews are made with high-quality ingredients that extract superior results. They also tend to be higher in alcohol and are more flavorful than their cheaper cousins.
When you drink a craft beer, it is a great opportunity to socialize with your friends and family. Many breweries host events and parties. These are often a great place to meet new people and make lasting connections.
Craft brewers are also more involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations and volunteerism. These actions can make a big difference to the lives of locals.
Another fun aspect of craft beer is the creative expression that goes into creating unique beverages. Some brewers go the extra mile by using innovative equipment to eke out extra flavor and aroma. Others prefer to stick with the tried and true.
As a result, there is an overwhelming amount of different flavors to try. It can be daunting to navigate the plethora of options, but it is worth the effort if you enjoy trying new things.
Thankfully, craft breweries are making it easier to try the different beers they make, and there are apps that help you do just that. Some even offer home delivery. The aforementioned app, Untappd, is also an excellent resource for finding beers that suit your tastes. This means you can try beers that you would never otherwise try, making the process of learning to savor craft beer more enjoyable than ever before. And with more people turning to beer as a social activity, the beer scene is sure to get more exciting.