Jump to content

Only One Way To Reduce A Glut! And Malt Disney Sounds Cool!

Razors Edge

Recommended Posts


For the TL;DR folks, there is or we are nearing a point of TOO MUCH beer production from craft brewers.


The long-building craft-beer boom is showing signs of slowing down.

Craft beer’s popularity has risen nationwide for more than a decade, and breweries have become a calling card for up-and-coming neighborhoods and communities, giving residents and visitors new places to gather and enjoy a taste of their towns. But in 2023 the smallest number of new breweries in over a decade will open, the Colorado-based trade group Brewers Association predicts. 

The bar-stool talk among beermakers and their customers is whether American cities have reached craft capacity and how much anyone wants yet another take on the IPA. About 9,500 breweries operate in the U.S. now, the association says.

Highland Brewing Co. of Asheville, N.C., opened in 1994. It advertises itself as the first legal brewery to launch since Prohibition in the Appalachian city of 94,000 residents. Now it’s one of over 50 in the area.

The business has gone from a basement brewery to a hilltop 40-acre destination that produces more than 40,000 barrels annually and generates around $15 million in revenue, according to President and Chief Executive Leah Wong Ashburn. She says she worries for the industry and how crowded the field has become.

“We’re still a collaborative industry, but the competition is now such that I think it’s overwhelming for consumers who haven’t been into craft beer,” Mrs. Ashburn says. “If they walk by the cooler and see 1,000 choices, they have no idea what to do.”

In Oregon, not everyone is convinced that having so many breweries makes the craft beer community buzzworthy. Pete Dunlop, a 34-year Portland resident and beer aficionado, says that as the volume has ballooned, the quality has plummeted. He points to the microbrew mecca of Bend, Ore., a town with 102,000 residents and over 30 breweries. 

“It used to be you could hit all the breweries in a day or two. Try that now and you need a week,” Mr. Dunlop says.

He sees breweries looking to stand out now with experimental flavors and techniques that often miss their mark. He recalls recently having tried one hazy IPA from near Portland with notes of coffee and coconut juice. 

“It was so weird, just a bizarre assault on your palate,” he says.

In Atlanta’s West End neighborhood, three craft breweries and a beer-heavy bar—Wild Heaven Beer, Monday Night Brewing, Best End Brewing and Hop City Beer & Wine, respectively—occupy the Lee + White retail development. Locals have nicknamed the complex Malt Disney.

Craft breweries have blossomed in Atlanta since 2004, when Georgia increased the legal limit of alcohol-by-volume from 6% to 14%. In 2017, Georgia began allowing brewers to sell and serve their product directly to consumers in taprooms, rather than exclusively wholesaling to distributors.

Eric Johnson, Wild Heaven’s co-founder and brewmaster, says breweries like his have benefited from the increased competition. 

“I don’t view any of that as even remotely problematic,” he says. Wild Heaven arrived at Lee + White in July 2019, two years after the development opened. “We looked at this space because Monday Night was already here. Creating a critical mass of folks doing something exciting is important.”

Colorado, another hub of U.S. beer culture, is home to over 428 craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association. There were 126 in 2011. Charlie Berger, co-founder of the Denver Beer Co., welcomes the crowded field. The company plans to open its fourth taproom in early 2023. It also has a separate production facility.

“There’s a ton of room for smaller, medium and even regional breweries,” he says. “As you get to the national level, there’s less. We’re not playing at that level.”

Some in this world view the growth more skeptically. Geoi Bachoua, owner and operator of Bine & Vine Bottle Shop in San Diego’s Normal Heights neighborhood, likes to keep his 1,800-square-foot store’s selection of more than 500 beers varied. He says he isn’t impressed with most of the 30 to 40 new beers he samples each week before deciding what gets stocked. 

“The vast majority of what I taste is garbage,” he says.

Mr. Bachoua says that craft beer has reached an oversaturation point in the San Diego area, home to nationally known breweries like Stone Brewing. He says upstart breweries need to take a hard look at the financial realities: “It’s not just growth anymore. Seven years ago it was nothing but growth.”

Now he sees a lot of breweries closing and consumers turning to wine or nonalcoholic beverages like kombucha.

Newbie breweries, like Chicago’s Funkytown Brewery, have to work hard to get noticed, their executives say. The Black-owned brewery launched in 2021 with an eye on Black consumers new to craft beer. Going after a niche customer base didn’t make it easier, co-founder Rich Bloomfield says. The brewery hired focus groups to test early beers like Hip-Hops and R&Brew, which is now a flagship.

“We learned to keep bitterness and acidity low from those study groups,” Mr. Bloomfield says. Funkytown has released 11 beers since opening, and is now sold at local Whole Foods grocery stores and the United Center, home to Chicago’s NBA and NHL teams. Having expanded the brewery’s footprint into Milwaukee, he expects to sell 6,800 barrels this year at $4 million in revenue, with almost $1 million in net profit.

Funkytown’s strategy to distinguish itself also includes eye-catching label art that prominently features Black people. Community support from breweries like Revolution Brewing and Half Acre Beer Co. helped the brewery gain footing.

Whether there are too many companies making craft beer is ultimately a question of locality, says Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association. Customers ultimately determine whether there’s too much beer in their town.

“There’s an old phrase in the wine industry that I feel like I’ve heard more in beer recently,” he says. “How do you make a small fortune in beer? You start with a large fortune.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Parsnip Totin Jack said:

We’ve got several in and around Warrenton. There’s one next to Old Bust Head at Vint Hill.

With wineries and now breweries, this rings true: "“It used to be you could hit all the breweries in a day or two. Try that now and you need a week,” Mr. Dunlop says."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...