Editors Note: Beer debate within our Craft Beer community is healthy and fun. A certain amount of “confrontation” within any community helps to drive and refine opinions, advance thought etc… Dougie read Adam McIntosh’s Post The Future of The Craft Beer and provided us with the following counter-point.
With every Utopian novel of the 20th century comes a counter Dystopian point of view. The future unfolds and reality ends up somewhere in the middle. Contributor Adam McIntosh shared his romantic calling for nanos to retake the lead and craft drinkers to embrace their artisan spirit. Unfortunately, nano-brewing is merely a rung on the ladder of craft beer evolution and an unsustainable one at that. DogFish Head started nano, on a pilot system they proudly display at their massive complex in Milton, Delaware. When Sam Calagione founded his ambitious endeavor back in 1995 he couldn’t envision where the dream would take him. Along his path did he shun expansion? He reinvested every dime into growth.
There are obvious benefits of brewing nano: experimentation, freedom, dialing in recipes but most importantly being open. The downside is far more insidious. While equipment costs are generally lower brewing 6 kegs at a time is grueling work. Graining out constantly, cleaning, running a tasting room, distribution and shopping for bigger equipment along with loans and investors are just a few serious challenges.
We can all think that brewing is about art, passion, and living one’s dreams but it is a business. Economies of scale don’t kick in unless breweries run large batches at full capacity. Malted barley and hops are commodities and limited resources. With more than 1,200 breweries opening in the last five years and the leading names in craft making huge increases in production how will maltsters and hop farmers keep up? Who gets first dibs when essential ingredients are allocated out?
The nature of capitalism shows that upstarts create and innovate and then are acquired, merged, or beaten by larger, better adapted entities. Unless burgeoning brewers grow quickly the rising tide will sweep them away. Great beer happens no matter what the size of the production facility. No one strives to build the greatest nano brewery.
Dougie Craig Bio:
Craft Beer Evangelist and Fan Boy
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