The future has never been brighter for craft beer, and throughout the long history of beer around the world, there has never been a better time to be a drinker and lover of great beer. It can be easy to lose sight of that notion in the day-to-day realities and mundanities of running brewing businesses, but all of us from time to time should step back and appreciate just how incredible it is that consumers today support such a broad spectrum of brewers with stylistically diverse interests.
I know what you’re thinking. “Stylistically diverse? But it’s all hazy IPAs and pastry stouts and a handful of sour beers here and there.” You’re right, of course—there is a lot of that. But hear me out.
Every trend in any creative enterprise (anywhere) is typically met with equally powerful countertrends. Impressionism was destroyed by cubism, which was supplanted by abstract expressionism, which looked dated once the minimalists and pop artists grabbed the limelight. Today, singular trends in art don’t exist—numerous concurrent trends exist simultaneously, often in tension with each other and competing for the attention of audiences and critics.
Similarly, the world of music has seen trends get supplanted one after the other. Decade by decade, music trends are readily identifiable up to the early seventies, but the concurrent explosion of punk, disco, and growth of prog and classic rock made things more difficult to classify. That grew even more difficult in the eighties, as the range of music broadened further with hip hop, house and electronica, new wave, indie rock, goth-rock, hardcore, pop, etc.
Trends became additions, not replacements.
Craft beer today is on similar paths—multiple, concurrent, different, not-mutually-exclusive directions that could appear on the surface as confusing but that speak to the ultimate power behind craft beer and the things that keep it going—a love of both creativity and technique, classical influence and contemporary exploration. We no longer have to reject the past to keep things creatively moving into the future.
I’m often asked “what’s next for craft beer,” and my routine answer is that it’s not one thing; it’s all the things. Gone are the days of easy categorization, but we’re all better for it. Lagers are not the next big thing, but they are increasingly a thing. “Better for you” beers are not the next big thing, but they are certainly one of the things.
But it’s important to note that the answer for brewing businesses isn’t doing everything; it’s doing some of the things so well that consumers can’t ignore you. Most folks will seek out the best of what they’re interested in at that point, rather than settling for mediocre attempts at doing lots of things.
Quality of execution and quality of creative vision still matter.
No matter which path you choose, we hope you enjoy the perspectives shared in this issue because we made it for you.
Subscribe to the Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® Brewing Industry Guide here.