The Brew Site

The Session #123: CyberBrew

This month’s edition of The Session is hosted by Josh Weikert who writes Beer: Simple. Josh asks us to consider the role of the internet in craft beer:

This month, we’re taking on the internet and craft beer: is it a help, a hinderance, an annoyance, or all of the above?  How is beer drinking/brewing different in the internet age, and how is the internet changing the way brewers and craft beer drinkers do business?

Topics might include:

  • Marketing beer in the internet age
  • The astounding influence of beer bloggers to make or break breweries (just kidding, but seriously, what’s the effect of all of this quasi-journalistic beer commentary on the drinking and brewing public?)
  • How are beer reviews (expert and mass-market) affecting what gets brewed and drank?
  • Are beer apps for tracking and rating overly-“gamifying” beer (or does that make drinkers more adventurous)?
  • Just how fast do aleholes on message boards and elsewhere turn off prospective craft beer enthusiasts?

I think we all know the answer to the main question which is: all of the above. Throwing the internet into the mash has done all sorts of things for craft beer, good and bad. And in this case, I’m considering “craft beer” in the context of, yes, the microbreweries. I don’t know if anyone has considered the effects of the internet among macrobrewery beers—do Bud drinkers really concern themselves overly much with ratings websites, message board chatter, and so on?

Of course not to say the internet has not touched upon the macros. But it’s via craft/micro. Consider the backlash and outrage towards Wicked Weed Brewing this past week as news broke that they are being acquired by AB InBev. Online, of course. With angry social media posts, articles on blogs, arguments on the message boards. The brewery being bought has to deal with all of that—the social media manager(s) in particular have it rough as they are the first (on)line encountering the vitriol.

But then again, it’s not going to make-or-break Wicked Weed going forward, and I doubt it’s even much of a blip in consideration on the AB side of things.

(As an aside, this article on Good Beer Hunting on AB’s buyout strategy which just came out is worth a read. A good summary quote: “While everyone thinks that AB InBev is truly interested in getting into craft and building these brands (which is a secondary goal at best), I submit that maybe buying craft breweries is more of a tool to devalue the craft category and increase the brand equity of their core legacy beers. The impairment charges AB InBev could face are worth billions more than any craft brand they have purchased, and those purchases would be a small price to pay to save a legacy brand. These craft brands, whether they realize it or not, may just be pawns in the AB InBev game of chess.”)

Here is what I see as the positive’s in the internet’s influence on craft/micro beer:

It’s only fair to list the negatives, too:

Okay, enough drum-banging for one weekend. I have a particular view of the internet and beer because I’ve been doing this blog for so long, plus I work in the web industry. Same for this new generation of beer drinkers coming up who only know life online. It would probably be too easy to write many thousands of word exploring this topic, but I’ll leave you here with just over 1,000.

In the meantime, I’ll open a beer today, check it in on Untappd, maybe post a picture to Instagram, and then consider a blog post. Cheers!