Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts on 'too many breweries'



Image taken from JUS 394 CyberPolitics


On March 10th, the blog of World Class Beverages submitted a posting entitled 'Less is more? Are there too many breweries?'.
From the blog posting:

Right now, the Brewer’s Association will tell you that there are almost 600 breweries in the United States that bottle, can, keg or otherwise distribute beer. That number doesn’t count the many hundreds of brewpubs that brew beer for sale in their restaurants. In most markets, there are only 2 or 3 beer distributors that will carry and sell craft beer, which leaves a theoretical total of 200 to 300 brewers per distributor in any particular area, not including the wide array of import brands that are currently available.

For those that have not heard of World Class Beverages before, they are an association of beer distributors located throughout the United States that has dedicated themselves to the promotion of craft and specialty beers.

While i have not read any responses from professional brewers, breweries, or brewpubs there has been a lot of feedback from beer fans all over.

A selection of some of the responses:
The majority opinion appears to be that the problem is not too many breweries, but the three tier system is what is to blame (save the topfermented.com opinion which is the best retort I have come across). After reading it over, both the original blog post & some of the responses it elicited, I am inclined to side with topfermented.com in that
  1. The number of beer distributors is much less than the number of wine distributors
  2. The idea of 'beer education' is still a relatively new idea (the Cicerone program has only been around since early 2008)
  3. The 'local beer scene' is not that developed in much of the country

I think it is safe to say that we all like choices, and the more we foster the local beer and wine scenes in our communities the more choices for all. A fostered beer/wine scene would cause an increase in demand, and thus more distributors would be needed (so as to not have quality issues and to keep up with demand), competition would increase for the available shelf space, and prices would go down as a result.

I am curious how the discussion of this 'issue' will grow with input from people in the professional side of the beer industry, as well as more input from non-professional brewers. What are your thoughts? Are there too many breweries?

1 comment:

Jeffery A. Dobberpuhl said...

Very interesting story. I'm glad you posted it. I can only wonder who at WCB in their right mind considered this to be a good question to begin with?

Competition is a wonderful thing. Innovation is a wonderful thing. People going out on a limb to make something new is a wonderful thing. The craft beer / small beer industry brings that to the table.

I, for one, enjoy the discovery of a new local brew or learning of a treasure known to only a few regions. Its fun.

Perhaps WCB should have looked at it the other way, are there too few breweries? Could more breweries put pressure on an industry and marketplace to create new distribution laws, etc.?

Dunno. Well, as I said, interesting post~!