The craft beer industry is one which has received a lot of press in recent years, both good and bad: some see the phenomenon as a trend, while others see it as the future of an age-old tradition; certain independent breweries push the envelope with innovation in flavour and technique, while others make headlines with incendiary comments and publicity stunts.
Whichever way you view the industry’s public face, it is an undeniable fact that craft beers represent a quality product of runaway popularity, that’s captured the hearts and minds of discerning drinkers the world over – and here we will examine exactly that phenomenon.
An Approximate History
The UK’s craft beer ‘movement’ saw its slow and steady beginnings in the aftermath of a cataclysmic period for British beer, around 1971. Independent breweries and brewhouses had been systematically acquired and homogenised by larger brewers, including Guinness and Whitbread. The result was a reduction in variety of available beverages, and the reduction in quality of existing brands; pubs now all had the same limited offerings. Smaller, independent breweries began to open in the wake of the commercial giants, returning to the production of smaller-batch brews adhering to traditional recipes once forgotten. Once such recipe was for something called the India Pale Ale, a beer supposedly brewed to double strength and doubly-hopped to survive the voyage to the colonies. Reproduction of this beer by smaller breweries, and the growing popularity of it and other unique beer styles – coupled with a sympathetic movement occurring independently in the US – eventually saw an explosion of independent breweries, and the creation of today’s craft beer landscape.
A big part of craft beer’s popularity in recent years can be attributed to generational interest in the product. Millennials, seeking to reject the lifeless, heavily-processed alcoholic products pushed by multi-national conglomerates, discovered the artisanal appeal of small-batch brewing, as well as the sustainable economy of funding smaller independent businesses. According to a study in the US, 34% of craft beer sales were attributed to millennials. The drop-off in interest from older generations is attributed to the ubiquity of popular products at the time of their coming-to-age, and the relative inaccessibility of a craft beer market with so many iterations of a product style available to buy.
Ubiquity in Venues
Craft beer’s popularity was only cemented by the mainstream adoption of craft beverages in hospitality venues across the country. Where at one point craft beer could only be found in the fridges of independent bars on the fringes of the city, today craft beer is available from an incredibly wide variety of sources, be they commercial, online or even on draught at the local Wetherspoon’s. This ubiquity has introduced a vaster audience to new flavours, and created an opportunity for independent craft breweries to expand their operations yet further to meet demand.