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Craft beer and the necessity of remaining dynamic

Sorry. The conversation about what is craft beer just won’t go away, and Blue Moon Belgian White often ends up in there somewhere.

But, dang it, Dave Bailey (HardKnott Dave) proves there is still something new to be said when he asks “Is Blue Moon craft?” He walks us through a definition, examining if and how Blue Moon meets particular criteria.

A couple of weeks ago a brewer who used to work for a very large brewing company and now has started a very small one said, “Blue Moon might be the most important craft beer there’s been.” Read “Is Blue Moon craft?” and you’ll understand why.

In the half dozen years since I asked “Blue Moon: Peter, Paul & Mary or Trini Lopez?” craft beer sales have just about doubled (as have Blue Moon sales, in case you don’t consider them one in the same). I’m not sure how many million new drinkers that translates to, but a lot. Dave recognizes they’ve come for something new and leads us to a conclusion that’s been drawn before, but not as succinctly.

Of course, like many things that are new, it will one day be old. It might gain big market saturation. But then, many brands that we now might consider craft will in turn suffer this once they gain widespread acceptance.

This last point is important. The criteria create a sector which by definition must remain dynamic. Reinvention and a need to innovate and react is essential. A point that is not made explicit, but is inextricably implicit.

I’m a fan of reinvention and innovation. But given that I was once new, that now that I am old, and also that I like beers that are no longer new, I’m not sure I find this last thought all that cheery.

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4 Responses to Craft beer and the necessity of remaining dynamic

  1. Jeff Alworth August 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

    I don’t know about this “need to innovate.” I think when you’re standing in a river, you might think the nature of water is movement–until it sweeps you to the still lake. Right now innovation looks like a winner, but things are cyclical. People may soon tire of cucumber goses, and then we might see a return to more stability. One thing about age is you aren’t as easily fooled into thinking what’s happening now will always keep happening. (That collection of Beanie Babies I put away for retirement whispers this truth nightly.*)

    To the consumer, Blue Moon is craft.

    *I don’t actually own Beanie Babies. I do own old first edition books, which may or may not have value in 30 years.

    • Stan Hieronymus August 24, 2013 at 7:35 am #

      Without wandering too far into the area of business analysis, because it’s not like I’m qualified . . .

      It seems to me that by exploring/inventing/innovating and if the resulting beers are good a brewery sends a signal that “we’re good at this.” Their “old” beers may benefit from the resulting halo effect. That larger, industrial breweries haven’t mastered this might indicate a flaw in my thinking.

      • Mike Kallenberger August 25, 2013 at 7:03 am #

        I’ve got to disagree with Jeff, though it seems to be a result of hearing something different in the article’s use of the word “innovate.” I don’t think it’s about novelty, which is what the latest iteration of a cucumber gose falls under. It’s about new ideas that take advantage of new opportunities that add real value. (Of course, there are far fewer opportunities for true innovation than for novelty.) Throughout history, everything from beer brands to empires have declined, and the culprit more often than not is an insistence on staying the same while the world changes around you. (Forgive me for indulging my usual urge to take every conversation to a 10,000-foot view.) And Stan, the fact that older, industrial brewers haven’t mastered the idea you put forth actually indicates a flaw in their thinking, not yours. I spent a lot of time during my last decade at Miller arguing your exact point, telling people that creating and commercializing some great craft-style beers — under the Miller name — would ultimately help us sell more Miller Lite (which was their first and in some ways their only goal). Our brewers weren’t the problem, because they were, and still are, brilliant. But the marketers couldn’t get their heads around the whole idea.

      • Stephen Beaumont August 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

        That “halo effect” is time-tested and very, very real, Stan. It might not ever have been practiced so perfectly as by a fellow named Jim Koch way back in the 1990’s.

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