16 November 2009

What keeps you coming back for craft beer?

It may sound like a strange question, but what keeps you coming back for more craft beer?

I am thinking of this because of several members of my circle of friends and family. I've got multiple friends/family members that say things like "I'm a bud man myself," or "I only like Miller." I couldn't care less what beer they like because I am not going to proselytize my craft beer onto them if they don't won't to drink it. What is it about craft beer that makes many craft beer enthusiasts so eager to try everything under the sun and not stay loyal to their favorite brand?

Don't get me wrong I am very loyal to several brewers including Founders, Three Floyd's, and Bell's brewing, but I would cut a drifter in a second to try a beer from the far corners of America (or Indiana for that matter) that I've never tried before. They will get more of my beer dollars over the course of a year, but they are not getting the lion's share because I like trying as many new beers as possible. So, what is it about loyal macro drinkers that make them only drink a certain brand and won't deviate from that? I've yet to meet a craft beer drinker that says something like "No, I'm a Founders man" if I try and offer them a different beer. I've seen this in 100% of the craft beer people I've met in my travels. There are also other factors that tend to link beer people together. Many enjoy the slow food movement, many have beards (Rod!), many are willing to travel great distances just to sample a beer, and most have taken a vacation with the specific idea to drink a regions beer while they are there. I've also discovered another thing during all of the beer festivals, homebrewers meet-ups, HBG meet-ups, and at breweries and brewpubs, and that is that beer people almost always equal good people. I've met some assholes at beer fests, but not many, but then again most people are having a good time getting a little sauce in them.

When I go to my favorite beer stores to buy beer I am usually looking for something new, something barrel aged, or something I can just try one bottle of. Craft brewers have obviously capitalized on this because there is always something new coming out each week (just look at the random beer roundup on Fridays). The death of the regular six pack is coming as well. Look how many beers come in only bombers or 4-packs now. I also wonder if our tastes have changed significantly over our beer drinking careers. I couldn't drink DIPA's when I first started drinking craft beer, and now I can't find a DIPA bitter enough. Is this the reason craft beer is always changing and experimenting with new beer? Does the brewer have to work hard to keep the public interested in their brand by constantly launching a new product? A quick glace over at the beer rating websites would say yes, but those website are full of beer geeks looking for the next "it" beer. Even if the beer tasted like horse piss if you put it in a bourbon barrel for 8 months, add some brett to the mix, and then have a team of horses actually piss in the beer and only make 30 cases of it I am sure it would get a A- or a 95 on the beer websites.

I am not trying to bash macro beer drinkers here I am just trying to understand the psyche of certain beer drinkers over other beer drinkers.

What did your personal beer progression look like? We all didn't start out wanting to try every beer would get our hands on, so when and how did this shift happen for the majority of craft beer enthusiasts?



  1. simple. craft beer drinkers care about beer. they are curious. they want to try new things. budmillercoors drinkers do not care about beer enough to experiment. they are the mcdonalds customers of the beer world. not that it's a bad thing, but for whatever reason they are fine with the american lager and see no reason to give anything else a chance. sure, craft beer is an aquired taste for most people, but in my mind you owe it to yourself to take a few fliers on DIPAs or RISs or whatever. it's the same with food, books, films, music, whatever. if you really want to understand something you have to delve a bit deeper into it. some people just don't feel the need to do that.

  2. That horse piss line is solid gold, Matt.

  3. What keeps me coming back? A passion for flavor and variety...things I hope transcend between my regular life and my beer life.

  4. Great column, Matt. The whole 'new beer' thing is somewhat of an obsession for me. I could be in a liquor store standing in front of my favorite beer of all time but if there was another craft beer I hadn't tried yet that looked good, I would probably opt for that. Maybe it's a 'grass is always greener' thing. Q95 has had the same playlist for about 20 years, and for some people that works. But I'll flip channels to any genre to hear the latest and greatest. Same with my brews!

  5. budmillercoors drinkers just choose the one macro that is least offensive to them or the one that tends not to give them a hangover. Once you step out of macro-land and over to the craft beer section of the cooler, you realize that beer can actually have flavor and complexity. The micro-brews tend to have colorful packaging, noteworthy label art, pleasant aromas, some might say gimmicks. For me at least, it leads to a desire to find out what makes a porter different from an IPA and what makes one Brown ale taste different than the next one... and how are they all similar, etc. It doesn't end- once you try all the local brews you realize there is a whole other set of micro-brews in another town and beers you can only get at a specific place and time. Even if you know it to be not-so-good, you still want to try it for yourself (whether it be pizza beer or horse piss - lol!)

    Of course then you reach a point where there are some beers you will NOT pay to taste (but of course you'd try it if it were free)

  6. I just like collecting the purty bottles and looking at them in my cellar...