From Roman Shuster on Linkedin, in response to our recent post: “Remember when bitter beer face was bad?”. We truly appreciate this post and that you took the time to provide such a thought provoking response. We were so overwhelmed with this response that we wanted to share it with our readers.
I echo your concerns about the hopification of America’s craft brewers. While I lack the brewery operation experience like yourself, I have spent 5 years analyzing the US beer industry for Euromonitor International, and have remained active in the craft beer scene as a co-founder of the UCLA Anderson Microbrew Club. Please allow me to offer my semi-educated opinion on the questions your raise.
1) When did US craft brewers decide to measure their manhood by how many hops they can cram in a beer bottle?
A: Great question! Per the Brewers association there is almost 1000 micro and regional breweries in the US. There is 1000 more brewpubs. With so many different brands available, it is simply too difficult for consumers to chose. Think of your recent trip to a beer specialist. How many brands did you see? I am sure that given your background you had a lot of knowledge about the brands available and could make a very educated decision about your purchase.
Unfortunately most consumers just don’t have the same level of involvement with the industry as you, and are in general less educated about the brands that they buy. As a result, consumers model their beer purchase decisions on the opinions of a very select and very educated minority of ‘dedicated craft beer drinkers’. These are beer bloggers, bartenders, and general beer snobs. Any self respecting opinion maker strives to find new and exciting products that the rest of the population is not aware off. For this minority ‘big’ and ‘hoppy’ beers are preferred because they are different and unique.
A successful craft beer brand must have that big powerful beer in their arsenal to get the beer geeks excited. The best marketers will be able to turn that excitement into a preference for other varieties from that same brand.
2) When did people feel the need to start tasting beer from a wine glass, swirling it around and commenting on it like a fine wine (for the love of all that is holy, it is a $7.00 beer not a 100 year old, $300 bottle of wine)?
A: I believe that this is actually great news for beer. If you are very selective individual who only wants the finest things in life beer is a very attractive product to buy. One can spend at the most $25 for an extremely exclusive bottle of beer. If one wanted to buy an extremely expensive bottle of wine they will have to commit $100s if not $1000s of dollars. It is much cheaper to be a beer snob, than a wine or whiskey snob. Brewers are beginning to take advantage of this.
3) A smooth balanced beer is a thing of beauty. So what is the obsession? Where will it end? Or is there no hope for American beer drinkers ruining their taste buds with hops overload?
A. Couldn’t agree with you more here. I love a good refreshing beer and find that more of my personal drinking occasions call for a simple lager, rather than an unfiltered Tripel. I think there is hope. If you think about the best selling craft beers (and I am using the term ‘craft’ from the point of the consumer so brands like Blue Moon are included) you will find Sam Adams Boston Lager, Blue Moon, Fat Tire, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, Shock Top at the top. These aren’t ‘exciting’ beers and they don’t get a lot of coverage from ‘beer snobs’. However, they are very drinkable and are the kind of beer the consumers want. At its core beer is meant to be a refreshing beverage. While ‘big’ beers are gaining, it is from a such small base that I don’t believe that ‘big’ beers will over take ‘small’ beers.
Happy to talk more, but I feel like I have taken up a lot of your time already, so I will stop here.