The Session #117: What will we see more of?

Oregon BeerThis month’s edition of The Session is hosted by Beer Means Business, where Csaba Babak asks us to consider the Beer Future, and What We Will See More Of:

The final picture of Beer Future will be based on what you think we will see MORE of.

Over the last 10 years, numerous topics have been presented and the bloggers who discussed them expressed a rich diversity of perspectives or specific areas of interest. Therefore, I refrain from giving you further ideas or examples. There are no limits in time, space or nature either. I would like you to let your imagination free, and capture ONE thing you think we will see MORE of with an explanation of the idea.

I just think it’s small and local that we will be seeing more of. To be sure, we are seeing plenty of that now, but frankly that’s not going away anytime soon, and right now I believe that’s the driving trend in the industry. Here’s why.

Almost all of the new brewery openings, at least from my vantage point here in Oregon, and Bend in particular, have been small(er) operations with a focus on draft rather than packaging. By “small” I mean 10 barrels or less, usually less, and they are eschewing expensive packaging lines.

Here in Central Oregon, of the last 12 brewery openings, only two, Worthy and Wild Ride, have a capacity over 10 barrels (30 barrels and 20 barrels, respectively). That’s been the trend around Oregon, and why not: it’s easier and less expensive to start up a small brewing operation than jumping right in at 30 barrels.

And why bother with investing in packaging, when instead, growler and crowler fills (“crowler” being the 32-ounce can option) have become so popular? Even powerhouse Boneyard Beer doesn’t package their beer. For so many up and coming breweries it must just make sense to start small and plan to grow.

And when you’re talking “small,” you’re necessarily talking “local” as well—most of these newer small operations don’t sell beer beyond their immediate region.

“Local” is the trend right now, and it’s not just the small breweries. It seems to be the strategy behind Anheuser-Busch’s craft acquisitions—buy up a brewery in every market (like this past week’s purchase of Karbach in Texas) to capitalize on the local presence (and snatch up shelf and tap space).

Ultimately however “local” won’t be decided by the mega or even regional breweries, but by this newer wave of small brewers starting up in their neighborhood. We’re seeing it now, and we’re just going to see more of it for the foreseeable future. Between new, prospective brewers wanting to break into the business and the growing “beer tourism” trend with drinkers seeking out new and local beers, small is going to be huge.