I am laying out a bold thesis here: that we are at the end of the golden age of national craft beer brands. I’m not saying that we will never again see the likes of Anchor et al, but that we will see their likes much more rarely going forward.
National craft beer brands are, more or less, the province of the second wave of craft brewing. We have behemoths like Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head and Samuel Adams striding across a landscape that used to be a wasteland of fizzy yellow swill. Without these brands – and their sadly departed first wave peers like New Albion – we wouldn’t be where we are today, with over 2500 craft breweries.
In a country as large and diverse as the USA, national brands are a mistake. Alabama is different to Delaware, North Carolina is different from Minnesota, and California is different from everything else. How can one brand serve this diversity? It’s kind of silly to think that it can.
Craft beer is beginning to embrace what beer should have been all along – local. The future of craft beer is small. Small is good for economies – just see how many recent articles there have been on the subject of economic regeneration springing from the craft beer revolution. Small is relevant to the needs of the local community. Small keeps money inside the local community instead of it heading overseas to distant owners. Small keeps jobs in the local community, instead of being outsourced to wherever is cheaper.
We are exiting the golden age of national craft beer brands, and that is fine. We are entering a better era – the Local Era.
Think small. Think local. Think drink local.