I am extremely passionate about great beer and the craft beer community, but I am curious about what type of beer culture is being built around craft beer right now. The recent craziness around CBS, beer tickets, anniversary tickets, and the massive rise of people selling craft beer items on StubHub and Ebay is blowing my mind. I think the long term effects of events like this are going to have a negative effect on craft beer overall.
My bigger question really revolves around the craft beer bubble. Are we in a craft beer bubble right now? I guess I should say fad to be more correct. "Fuck no, this guy is crazy." Do you remember the craft beer bubble that popped in the mid 90's? I was underage at that point, but the statistics show there was an influx of brewers in the mid 90's and many of them didn't survive. Is the bottom getting ready to fall out like some over packaged collateralized debt obligations? Most breweries are doing some type of limited run, rare one off, or collaboration that creates buzz. We have are over 1600 breweries in the US with another 700 in the planning stages right now, and these events will just keep multiplying. I am not faulting them for it though, I think it is a good for marketing and a way to keep the lights on. This has to end at some point though doesn't it? It is getting tougher and tougher to try and get any beer with just a little bit of buzz around it. It is getting to the point of alienating people and pissing off beer fans. When I first got into craft beer a brewers one-off or seasonal beer brought me around to their entire portfolio of beer. I find when I am at beer gatherings people don't really know of the great beer some brewers are producing all year long, but only know or care about a brewers limited run and rare beer they produced. I was am guilty of this craze with my first experience with Surly Brewing and their much celebrated imperial stout Darkness. I had my blinders on for that beer, but when I traded for a bottle of it my trading partner put in most of their other beers with it. The standard line up for Surly is one of the best in the country I think. I didn't even like Darkness, but I continue to purchase (online vendor that ships to my door) Surly products because they are fantastic. I think less people are doing this though and are focusing all of their efforts and beer dollars on the newest and rarest of the rare. What will this do long term? Do people even know how great a well made pilsner can be? I hate to say it again, but how truly great session beer is as well. I don't really see much on the beer boards about Metropolitan or Notch beers, but they are making some of the best and well made beers around. They are not loaded full of crazy ingredients, wild yeast strains, or barrel aged, but I like that. The beer is wonderful and is conducive to conversation. I just want to go to my local and have a few pints with my friends and overall shift in attitude to everyday beers is disturbing.
Take the recent craziness with CBS. I can't believe how much money people are paying for it on Ebay. I've seen places that are selling it for $100 a bottle through their online webshop. The sheer number of bottles of Dark Lord, CBS, Black Tuesday, and many other rare beers on Ebay shows something that is really taking off and won't get any better. Tickets for the Three Floyd's anniversary party are going for $100 bucks to $180 bucks as of publishing on Stub Hub. I will guarantee that a bottle of the anniversary beer will be on Ebay before the event ends that day. I really hate that people are showing up for these events and looking for tickets with the sole purpose of selling them for a profit. I know people that were following the Cavalier beer truck around seeing who got bottles of CBS. To those Ebayers and Stub Hub people doing this just for profit if you promise to drink it I've got some hand bottled homebrew for you. Its an imperial Kvass with brett and Ebola yeast strains. I call it "Bend Over and I'll Show Ya!"
I hope I am completely off base with this, but beer cultures in other countries I've visited are not built on what we are building right now, and I don't think this trend can continue for the long term. These one off beers are exciting and some times are pretty fantastic, but the year round beers are what keeps your favorite brewer in business. The crazy growth of craft brewers right now is only sustainable if they sell out all of their beer and not just one rare beer one or two times a year. Do you know the price of stainless steel fermenters? There are many brewers out there that are hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions of dollars in debt growing their businesses right now, but I really think what is happening is the craft beer world threatens the continued growth of great beer. I hope I'm wrong, but things seem to be getting worse and not better. I truly hope I am incorrect, but I would love to see a culture being built around great beer that is accessible to anyone at just about anytime. I want to see craft beer get to a 25 to 35% market-share one day and share my passion with more people, but I just don't see the long term viability of what is happening in our niche world right now.