Monday, August 24, 2009

Brew Beer Professionally?

I find it amusing when someone hears that I brew my own beer and their first response is, "Wow, you should open up a brewery!" I am sure the majority of home brewers have though extensively about what it would take to make money in the beer market whether it's a brewpub or working somewhere in the industry to find a niche. Knowing what I know now, it is pretty scary to walk into a beer store, see all the selections and think about your own little beer up there among the giant collection of brews. A brewpub can be fun and a way to get your foot into the door of producing beer for money. I think that is the way to go depending on what city/state you want to open.

Take a look at what the recent years have been like for breweries and brewpubs. What I find most interesting in the statistics found below is that even though the demand for breweries isn't growing at a very rapid pace, the supply (breweries) are growing at a significant pace. Kansas City may be a slight difference considering the closures of Power Plant Brewery and River Market Brewery, but the hope of a couple more to rejoin around the corner may bring us up to par.


Tim said...

I find the Prohibition Era (1919 to 1933) numbers here very interesting. For one thing, I guarantee there was never a time, like they indicate in 1930, that there were zero craft breweries in America. One could argue that they are referring to legally operating craft breweries that were licensed by the government, but if that is the case shouldn't that number have gone down to zero in 1920 (when the 1919 Prohibition ammendmant went into affect) and stayed at zero until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed?

Also, since they are counting Brewpubs as craft breweries, I think this would be nearly impossible to estimate during this era. Since the bigger companies would no longer be distributing, it would probably be easier cheaper and safer to make beer yourself than acquire it through other means. I think there were between 30 and 100 thousand speakeasies in NYC at times during prohibition, I have to believe that many were making their own beer. I would actually find it more plausible if you told me there were never so many craft brewers in America than if you told me there were none.

KC Hop Head said...

You could talk to Julia Herz. Her email is listed, but the graph could be misleading because of the dates that were chosen as coordinates. Esentially if you chose more dates it could be 0 from 1920 to 1933, but it looks like they just chose one date. For instance I think they chose 1936 because it took 3 years to get all the breweries opened back up to hit the peak that they show.

I am pretty sure they're not including speakeasies as Craft Breweries and only including law abiding breweries.
From the link I included:
Brewpub: A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery's storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer "to go" and /or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent.

KC Hop Head said...

I think the point of the chart is to show that US has more craft breweries opened now than in the last 100 years. Also that there has been an incredible increase over the last 10 years.

And also that 1980 sucked.

KC Hop Head said...

One more thought, can you guess why from 1936 to 1980 the number of craft breweries go down? I do, but why the large increase all of a sudden in the recent years, I don't know. But I like it!

Tim said...

I would say the decrease from 1936 to 1980 would be due to the restablishment of dominance from the Big Boys (Bud, Miller, Coors) and the uptick in craft breweries in the last 30 years is something of a cultural shift where more individuals are viewing beer not just as a means to an end but as a beverage that comes in many different varieties and flavors and can be appreciated. A lot of the credit goes to Sam Adams and the BBC.

Point taken with the lack of data points making it a little misleading, as to glance at it, it appears that there was a steady downward trend from 1919 to 1930 and a stead upward trend from 1930 to 1936 and that is probably not the case. Chalk that up to me not having had to read very many graphs since college.

Still my essential point is that the very general definition of a microbrewery would be a smaller company that is selling beer to make money. It seems a little silly to pretend that there were no such businesses in 1930.

Tim said...

*Rather a general definition would be a smaller company that is selling beer they brewed themselves to make money.

You know what I meant though.

Jared said...

I think the reason you see a decline is because of the fact that for a long time light colored Lagers were the mainstay of American beer. I think it has less to do with the corporations themselves and more with a lack of interest in other styles. When all America drank was lagers the people who made the cheapest most available lager won out. This meant that smaller brands like Lone Star floundered and were bought out and ran by the bigger beers. I think a better graph would show specific regional brands. I think you'ld see less of a drop. This would be because while there were regional breweries that made regional beers they were owned by big corporations. The graph doesn't show this though.

As to the 80's, that was a time when imports became big. Granted I was born in the 80's and therefor dont remember this, but talking to people who do they all agree that lager imports were the classy must have beers of the 80's. This means smaller US breweries once again suffered under lower sales. Causing more closers.

The reason for the craft brewing spike is it's all the rage now. Legalizing homebrew created a generation that knew how to brew good beer prior to entering the market. No more breweries opened on old family recipes. Brewers knew what they were doing, what they liked, and wanted to share it. People are discovering styles they never knew existed. Imports are declining and so US brewers have to create those styles to make up for it. Just look at the explosion in interest for Belgian beers. The big guys can't fill the niche beers because their setups are to big to allow for smaller releases (or were, since we now have some craft like beers from them). Also it's now considered cool to be a beer geek. If there's one thing beer geeks aren't known for it's brand loyalty. In an environment like that larger numbers of smaller breweries will thrive.

Wow I rambled longer then I thought I would about that. Back on topic.

I get that "you should open a brewery" comment alot too and my response is always "No, I shouldn't. There are enough crappy breweries out there that are just jumping on the bandwagon." :)

Besides, with homebrewing I get to make what I want when I want.