I don’t know a lot, if anything come to think of it, about mirco-brewing and the daunting challenges they face to get their hand-crafted beers into the mouths of us grateful beer drinkers. All I know is I am eternally thankful for the sacrifices they make to brew their unique, quality, beers.
Starting a micro-brewery seems an incredibly risky business. Think of the list of expenses – raising the initial capital, renting premises, buying expensive equipment, finding a skilled brewmaster, the increasing price of raw materials, distribution costs and marketing, to name but a few with likely dozens more I haven’t even thought of. I’m therefore assuming in order to become a micro-brewer it really starts as a labor of love. Why else do it? To get rich? I doubt it. I’m guessing some do extremely well but I’m unsure about the majority. If they do make a good living from micro-brewing (and I truly hope that’s the case) I can only assume that it takes years of hard work and financial worries before it happens. A February 2009 article by the Brewers Association says the cost of operating a small brewery increased over 39 % in the 12 months between November 2007 and November 2008. Now that’s a scary statistic.
And even once they do have their precious ‘nectar’ all brewed, casked and bottled with it’s new unique new label (I love the label designs of micro-brewed beers) and a name like “The Bishops Last Prayer Amber Ale’, it seems the biggest challenge is distribution. How at the end of the day do they get people to know about, let alone try, their fabulous new beer? It now comes down to getting ‘share of shelf ‘ or, in this case, ‘share-of-bar’. How do you persuade the owner or manager of the local pubs/restaurants to agree to giving up valuable tap-space to a beer that no-one knows and which, in all honesty, won’t initially give them the same revenue as the ‘big brand beers’. Plus the big national breweries offer promotions and incentives tied into their major ad campaigns to make their less-than-worthy beers more profitable. It must be an uphill battle.
Fortunately, for everyone the demand for unique quality beers continues to rise and has turned the tide in the right direction. Pubs and restaurants need a unique angle and what better way than to offer quality local beers. In February 2009 the US Brewers Association announced the ‘2008 Craft Brewer Sales Numbers’ which showed sales by craft brewers were up 5.8% in volume and 10.5% in dollars versus 2007.
“2008 was a historic year for beer with the large brewers consolidating and imports losing share, while the top ten selling beer brands dropped in sales. At the same time, small independent craft brewers continued to gain share and attention,” said Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association.
If any micro-brewers reads this post please let me know your experience and the challenges you’re facing and what we craft beer drinkers can do to help. Buy more is one of them I’m guessing!
Thanks for reading.