Friday, June 27, 2014

Size Doesn't Matter

Eno Sarris has an article on Nate Silvers’s ESPN-homed, asking if Sam Adams is too big to be craft? Here’s his intro:

Craft beer is big. Independent craft breweries saw their collective sales grow 20 percent last year, and they’re slowly taking away sales from the giants. Overall beer sales are flat, but locally brewed India Pale Ales are killing it.
Craft beer is also small. As a group, craft breweries still comprise only about 8 to 14 percent of the overall beer market. And being small is a point of pride — it’s part of the craft brewery definition. You can’t be craft if you make more than 6 million barrels of beer a year (Budweiser brews about 40 million barrels a year). Even if a brewery sticks a craft-looking label on the bottle (think Third Shift, which is actually a front for Coors), it doesn’t make it craft. Its parent company is still too big.
Except, maybe, for Samuel Adams. Jim Koch started his Boston Beer Company and Samuel Adams in 1984, pitching it as a flavorful antidote to a watery beer scene. Along the way Boston Beer Company grew into a $2.9 billion company. But now flavor is everywhere, as are other upstarts that pitch their beers as more bold, artisanal and authentic than Sam Adams.
Once again the beer world is missing the point.

Why is everyone missing the point? Because “craft” is irrelevant—whether you're big or little. In fact it’s a red herring.

Craft is a marketing term. Frima framas. Jargon. Nothing more, nothing less. The term has been co-opted by beer marketers and by those who've drank the Kool-Aid, as a synonym for good. Guess what? That's not always the case. More importantly, the idea of "craft"—that is to say bearded men, passionately making Butter Pecan-flavored brews (of course aged in Baskin & Robbin's ice cream bins) for $30 a pop; who give partial proceeds to to the orphans of golf widows, all while supporting the local economy—often trumps the beer itself. 

Don’t worry if you’re authentic, don't worry if you're too big, don't even worry if you're craft. Worry that the beer in my pint glass doesn't suck.

But all of this is moot anyhow, because Sam Adams is going to buy out your brewery in a year anyhow. But that was the plan all along, wasn’t it?

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