It’s October now. Wow! That means, of course, that it’s time for the Session, the monthly get-together of beer bloggers that I continue to insist I’m a part of despite clearly being The Man now.
It’s a good time to be in the craft beer industry. The big brewers are watching their market share get chipped away by the purveyors of well-made lagers and ales. Craft breweries are popping up like weeds.
This growth begs the question: is craft beer a bubble? Many in the industry are starting to wonder when, and more importantly how, the growth is going to stop. Is craft beer going to reach equilibrium and stabilize, or is the bubble just going to keep growing until it bursts?
I joke, but it does occasionally seem strange for me to simultaneously take on the role of “beer blogger” and “owner of a brewery.” For the most part there aren’t any conflicts that arise and so I happily type on, but this month there is a very clear lack of objectivity on my part.
Is craft beer a bubble? I opened a damn brewery a year and a half ago. If I thought it was a bubble then I wouldn’t have done that.
That doesn’t mean it’s not, of course; only that we don’t think so. I think it’s also important to distinguish between national (and international) and local markets. If every brewery opening up wants to be Sierra Nevada, or even Southern Tier, then yes, there will be a lot of disappointment to go around.
That’s not our goal, though. We’ve always been very clear about our lack of a plan for world domination. If it happens, excellent! But Buffalo is not a means to an end for us; it is the end itself.
I am not the businessman of the company: the benefit of having so many owners is that we can specialize, and I can focus on washing kegs, filling growlers and pontificating in a self-important manner on our website. I don’t feel qualified to talk about the craft beer market on a national scale, but I’m comfortable talking about my hometown.
We have been met with high praise and great enthusiasm. From the moment our beer was first tapped at Cole’s and Mister Goodbar people have been clamoring for more than we can make. “We’re working on it, we’re working on it,” I’ve said repeatedly, even today.
There was a market there. There was room for us among Flying Bison and Pearl Street and the Buffalo Brewpub. I have looked into the heart of this city and seen the gnawing desire for beer, more beer, more local beer. Is that going to suddenly go away? One day will people wake up and realize that oh, IPAs kinda suck, let’s drink gin?
Maybe we aren’t part of the bubble. Maybe we got in first, and are among the prizes in the Kinder egg (which is an egg and not a bubble, so I’m not sure where I’m going with this metaphor). Once there was Flying Bison and Pearl Street and the Buffalo Brewpub, and now there is also Community Beer Works and Gordon Biersch and the Hamburg Brewing Company. Is there room for Big Ditch and Old First Ward Brewing Company and Rusty Nickel and New Buffalo and Resurgence and all the other breweries that are so new they only exist in the minds of their founders?
I say yes. Of course, by the time they open the Buffalo brewing landscape will have changed so much it will be unrecognizable. We were at the front of the second wave of Buffalo craft beer. To anyone planning on joining its tail, or maybe starting the third wave (categorization is a hobby of mine), I can only say that I have a naive allegiance to the capitalistic ideal of the best beer winning out, so if you have the passion and the ability to create a quality product then you should roll up your sleeves and jump in.
Maybe I’m wrong, and cracks are beginning to form in the ice underneath us. As a comment on the announcement post for this Session points out, in the end those with a good business plan and the know-how will survive any bursting of bubbles, so in any event we’ll be okay.
I still don’t think there’s a bubble. Maybe elsewhere, but not here. I might be proven wrong, but after years of self-identifying as a pessimist I realized that in the end I really do think the best of everyone and every situation. Plan well, do your research, have a good product, and then join us in the ranks of professional brewers.