Craft beer is big. Independent craft breweries saw their collective sales grow 20 percent last year, and theyâ€™re slowly taking away sales from the giants. Overall beer sales are flat, but locally brewed India Pale Ales are killing it.
Craft beer is also small. As a group, craft breweriesÂ still comprise only about 8 to 14 percent of the overall beer market. And being small is a point of pride â€” itâ€™s part of the craft breweryÂ definition. You canâ€™t be craft if you make more than 6Â million barrels of beerÂ a year (Budweiser brews about 40 million barrels a year). Even if a brewery sticks a craft-looking label on theÂ bottleÂ (think Third Shift, which is actually a front for Coors), it doesnâ€™t make it craft. Its parent companyÂ is still too big.
Except, maybe, for Samuel Adams. Jim Koch started his Boston Beer Company and Samuel Adams in 1984, pitching it as a flavorfulÂ antidoteÂ to a watery beer scene. Along the way Boston Beer CompanyÂ grew into a $2.9 billion company.Â But now flavor is everywhere, as are other upstarts that pitch their beers as more bold, artisanal and authentic than SamÂ Adams.
The company is trying to combat this narrative, recognizing that itâ€™s stuck between the small and the big.Â No matter how craft fads come and go, aÂ recent televisionÂ ad implies, SamÂ Adams is forever.
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