Friday, August 05, 2005

USA Today Gives Overview of Craft Beer Industry

Good overall article, but it does fall prey to the rise-fall-comeback motif. Craft beer was popular in the 90's. Then, a bunch of breweries closed (like any maturing industry). The media stops reporting on it. A fad that went away, right? Incorrect. But the media is very surprised to see craft beer doing well.

From the article:
The combination of these forces has made craft beers the fastest-growing segment of the alcoholic beverage market: Sales jumped 7.2% from 2003 to 2004. ("Craft beers" is the industry term for intensely flavorful brews made with all-malt recipes by local or regional brewers; they represent 3.2% of the 206 million-barrel American beer market.) More significantly, 135 of the country's approximately 1,400 craft brewers have enjoyed double-digit growth the past few years, according to the Brewers Association.

Ray Daniels, director of craft-beer marketing for the association, attributes the robust sales to consumers' quest for bold, distinctive flavors in all of their foods, a weaker dollar (which hurts sales of imported brands) and greater consistency in the beers themselves. Overall quality also has improved, he says, and regional producers have become more reliable about keeping their products on store shelves.

Though smarter marketing and better quality control have laid the foundation for the surge in interest, the true excitement is generated by brewers unleashing their creativity and honing their craft.
Some so-called extreme brewers, such as Sam Calagione of Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, are doing things that are unclassifiable. His Midas Touch Golden Elixir beer is inspired from an analysis of residue found on crockery in King Tut's tomb; his Pangea incorporates ingredients from each of the world's seven continents; and he's working on a version of tej, an African beverage flavored with hops and honey.

"Imagination is the challenge not only facing brewers but consumers. They have to be willing to allow their own definition of what a beer can be to be expanded."

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