New Series – UnPopOp Series #1: Money Hungry Craft Breweries

Featured Contributor: Conrad B. @inbituinthebrew

Let me start off by saying this is The Internets – everyone has an opinion. And I am no different. The beautiful thing about these United States is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That’s the freedom that we all enjoy as Americans. With different experiences and perspectives comes different opinions on various topics.

Sometimes groups as a whole can have an opinion about certain topics that many people can relate to. For example, one popular opinion may be that beer is a great water substitute. While many reading this may agree (even if only half-heartedly), there are still those who would like to say otherwise.

That’s likely where my next series of posts will land – in the “unpopular opinion” category, thus the birth of the “UnPop Op” series. My next few posts may contain some elements of devils advocate thinking, but most of the time the posts will be of my own thoughts and beliefs based on the information I’ve found. Some ideas may not be on the extreme side of unpopular, and some others you might even agree with. Still, with the articles, interviews, and conversations that I’ve found, the next few posts will be contrary to popular opinion.

Photo courtesy: dreamcast-talk.com

My first example(s) are my opinions on those money hungry craft brewers and brewery owners/founders selling out to Big Beer. It seems like we see a new “acquisition” of a craft brewery every day – Goose Island Beer Co, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Meantime, and the list can go on and on. What happened to bringing down “The Man?” Craft breweries should be sticking it to him (or her), and they should be wildly successful in stealing market share from the Big Three, or two, or however many there are now. These craft breweries should be the shining example of quality beer that’s not mass produced on the global scale, and they should be owned by their original owners/founders. I mean, that’s what makes them true craft and not sellouts, right?

Okay, so here comes the unpopular to the opinion – selling the brewery to the larger beer corporations is okay. I know, crazy right? [Enter controversy, online arguments, and web trolls.]

So why do I say it’s perfectly fine to “sellout” to the big beer companies? Let’s take a look at a few different elements in play: the dream, the business, and the product.

Now I am no professional brewer, nor do I own a brewery, but I do have some type of general business know-how. And I know that most entrepreneurs (in this case the brewers or brewery owners) start with an idea or dream they would like to see through to success. In today’s world, the stories are few and far between of a person entering the workforce as a business owner. In case you didn’t know, most owners of breweries, brewpubs, and other craft beer establishments are real people. These real people had a real job to pay their real bills to support their real families, and yet they still had the dream to leave that job behind to start their own brewery. See what didn’t change? Their idea or concept came to fruition, but that did not change the fact that they still had real bills and real families.

Which leads me to the business element in play. If you remove the ogre-like layers of your favorite nano, micro, or macro brewery, there remains a business.People still purchase that brewery’s product and experience that brewery’s service. A quick Google of “define: business” provides many definitions of the word, two of which are included below:

1. a person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade

2. the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.

Behind the passion, the art, and the science of your favorite beer destination, there is a well-developed, carefully calculated, highly detailed business plan. The brewery’s business plan has everything from the company’s (yes, company) marketing plan, financial and investment plan, production plan, and risk management plan. And at the very bottom of all their financial reports? Yep, that’s their net profit.

So where does all this business stuff come from, and how does it add any weight to the argument that selling a brewery to big beer does not mean being a sellout? For that we will go to the product: Craft Beer.

Yes, there is passion. Yes, there is innovation. There is both art and science in brewing. From creating the recipe, to ensuring all the measurements are where they are supposed to be. For many, it truly is a dream come true. The difference is that this dream gets turned into a tangible, inventoried product that has to be sold to consumers and other businesses. It costs to make the beer and it costs to sell the beer. There are fees, taxes, municipalities, distributors, retailers, bottling and canning companies, and many other organizations taking a bite out of that $12 – 22 oz. bottle you purchased at your local bottle shop. That means that although there is a rush of breweries opening every day, the profit following those openings is a mere trickle. Speaking of money hungry brewers, the Huffington Post attributes just 8% of the final cost to “Brewers Margin” (more information can be found in their article here).

Photo courtesy: Huffingtonpost.com

Remember when you worked at that job where you worked significantly harder than what you were being paid to work? Remember when it was celebrated that a person who started from nothing worked their way up to something? What about those times when small companies were celebrated for their tremendous growth thanks to their strong leadership and quality product? Does that sound familiar? Maybe it’s time we celebrate those brewers and brewery owners that are tasting success and seeing their hard work pay off. If you still consider them a sellout, it’s not too late to vote with your wallet and support another hard-working brewer and brewery owner in your town. And don’t forget to thank them for that amazing experience in the glass in front of you.

Conrad B.’s Bio:

God. Family. America. Craft Beer. Homebrew.
Sacramento, CA / Dallas, TX

Twitter: @inbituinthebrew

We are always looking for new contributors.  Send me a note to start your journey on the Sommbeer team.  email:  sommbeer@gmail.com   – David

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Conrad B

God. Family. America. Craft Beer. Homebrew.

Sacramento, CA / Dallas, TX
InBetweenthebrew.wordpress.com

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