Is the Craft Bubble finally about to burst?

I’ve heard talk of a burst in the craft beer bubble for at least a decade at this point. But maybe we are finally heading that way?

Anecdotally, I am seeing and hearing of more breweries closing. And, yes there are plenty of new ones opening. But the ratio is getting smaller.

Big breweries are particularly surprising (e.g., Smuttynose, Prohibition).

It seems there has been a shift in focus from the quality of the product to the presentation (e.g., fancy labels, quirky names, exotic adjuncts).

Generally speaking, the product seems to be getting diluted. Too many breweries producing bad or dull beer.

Anyone else forecast a craft beer downfall?

You bring up some interesting and reasonable points. In fact upon a recent muling mission, I discussed just this topic with Greg, a friend and fellow trader. I was picking up Veil and Bearded Iris items, and we started talking about all these up start breweries pumping out what has been effectively called NE IPAs or Juicy IPAs, and how this scene has created a tunnel vision frenzy. I said to him, you know I really hope we don’t see people pass by great beers like Two Hearted Ale, Stone Arrogant Bastard, DF 90 Mins and some of the more lesser known brews like Troegs Nugget Nectar, Victory Storm King, Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot, etc. because they aren’t the hot new now. These aforementioned brews, maybe not the pinnacles are still great brews. In fact many of them had to have directly influenced today’s Brewers. You’d have to think that’s where the passion started. Isn’t it a cruel irony, that homage and appreciation for those brews inspired a new wave of Brewers with bold ideas, that will likely kill the forefathers. I hope that doesn’t happen.

I think the art sells a lot of beers, the names some what, but the Mecca treks and line craze is puzzling to me. I mean the NE style IPA is really enjoyable, but it all seems a little puzzling that Avery can put amazing products on shelves everywhere but Tired Hands, Other Half, Trillium can’t or won’t. (I’ll concede they are still new.) It seems, however there is this manufactured craze that, keeps the breweries banking hard core. It’s good business, but I feel it hurts other breweries and deprives the entry level enthusiast who doesn’t have an easy avenue to get a Trillium Julius.

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All those beers are terrible

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I think in many areas where the market is saturated this will happen.
But in my particular region of Oregon…its still in expansion mode.o 50s
Most of the new brewpub are not doing fancy pants beers…just old favorites.
Then here the average micro drinker is far older 49s to 50s.
We grew up on trad IPA and Pales.
And the new guys seem to do those styles correct

Of the 6 mentioned you tried 5 of them, and you gave 3 of the 5 pretty favorable ratings, so that is a little confusing that you would call them “terrible”, but that’s your opinion.

Perhaps you’d have preferred I mentioned different mainstays, say Old Rasputin, Stone Ruination Struise Black Albert, or Green Flash Imperial. IPA.

The point was, I’d hope the great mainstays don’t get glossed over - they are still great brews. Many of them iconic representations of specific styles.

I would think that those ‘mainstays’ are the gateway to the new and trendy. Seems likely that somebody would realise they were interested in different beer by an Old Rasputin or Arrogant Bastard or something, rather than going straight into spending a few hours in a queue in Brooklyn every weekend.

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Agreed. I like the new fashionable beers, but there are some great beers still readily available. If I can buy a couple mixed packs from a local friend who is returning from a mule trip, I will. However, the majority of my purchases and adventure is trying stuff available at the bottle shops. I know a few guys that seemingly have tried all the hot release stuff, but never tried a Rochefort, St. Bernardus, or Ayinger Celebrator. Almost never hear talk about how great it’d be to get a Westvleteren 12. That bums me out.

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I think there is a cohort of beer folks that rarely buy imports or at least the classic imports. For people that got into beer before the big boom there was a need to drink imports because of limited American craft selection. More recently, that is not an issue for many newer beer people.

Additionally, when I read your list I also thought those were more gateway craft beers rather then what I would consider prototypical easily available and good beer.

The choice at the bottle shop between a classic Belgian and a new release from a local brewery usually comes down to availability for me. That new release will be on shelves for a month or two at most, whereas that classic Belgian will still be available in ten years.

That sound about right, at least in my experience. My entry into “craft” was in 2005. Back then, Total Wine on the East Coast had a good amount of domestic craft. The percentage of foreign imports was higher. I think the quantity appears to be close to the same now as it was then, but American craft beer has boomed so it makes up less of the overall selection.

Still kind of sad that many people who “know” craft beer haven’t even had some of the mainstays and often best representations of a particular style.

I think it’s going to transform. How it’s going to transform, I don’t know yet.

Something just seems… strange to me. It could just be me and my interest in beers in general.

  1. It could be the industry

Over the last few years I’ve focused more and more on local/regional breweries. I don’t seek out new breweries that have made their way into my market, and other than one or two breweries, I don’t really care about their new releases. Part of it is that I’d rather support the local economy, part of it is that I’d rather drink beer that is likely a lot more fresh. I have more faith that some brewery within 200 miles is getting their beer on the shelves faster than some brewery all the way across the country. Yes, I know that might not always be the case, as it’s largely up the the distributors, but I just feel like it’s more likely to be true than not.

That could be driving a number of people - random new breweries, even if highly regarded in their home turf, may not be getting the kind of reception they expect. Smuttynose expected growth along the lines of what they had over the previous decade and totally miscalculated.

  1. It could be the “community”

I know breweries love the people who will take off work 3 hours early on a random weekday to get their beer. Good for them. However, I’m not totally sure that it will help the industry in the long run. I’m sure they love that they can clear out their product in a few hours. It’s cute that people will post absurd photos of their “hauls” - where they buy hundreds of dollars worth of product. Presumably they’re just using it to barter other beers across the country, or maybe muleing for their friends. Who knows. I just know it’s silly looking.

I’ve also seen my fair share of people who will call flawless to-style beers, “crap” without batting an eye while they rant and rave about some pastry stout or flour IPA that sold out at 11:45 am on a Tuesday morning. These people are toxic and will rot the craft beer community from within, especially as these types of people appear to be becoming more and more the norm.

The average “craft beer drinker”, not the ones on here, but the ones who might pick up a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada or be “adventurous” and get Sam Adams every once in a while, will not be won over by the any of the types of people I’ve described above.

Those beers are all relics of the past. People’s palates and preferences have evolved.

These days, I’d rather drink a macro lager than 99% of craft beers. It’s really come full circle.

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