Submitted by Doug Walker, Sales Director – Berryessa Brewing Co.
We’re all to blame. Me, you, the brewer, the craft beer bar – we’re all guilty and we know it. Production realized volume would move fast, sales saw dollar signs, but none of us could foresee how far this trend would go. Most of us lived through the 100 IBU+ /high ABV pissing match in the early 2010’s, then we saw a hop crisis, next was a surge of sours, now we belong to the “Rotation Nation” which seems to be the only cure for the craft beer world’s insatiable A.D.D – Alcohol Deficit Disorder.
I’ve been in this industry since I became legal age, almost 10 years deep, which means I can’t claim the new or the old school, but I thoroughly understand both. I’m old school in the sense that I’m not with the trends; you won’t catch me drinking an IPA with ingredients fit to bake a cake. However, I’m new school in the sense that I realize these styles sell, generate buzz and make money in one of the most competitive industries in the world, there’s over 1000 competitors (breweries) in California alone! Breweries that were too stubborn, the ones who stuck to their old school muskets, went out of business or even worse, got forgotten about, when in the crosshairs of today’s hip, new school breweries.
Craft lagers aren’t cool enough yet, but I think we’re getting close to crossing that bridge. There’s nothing worse than visiting a microbrewery and not being able to just order a classic beer – pilsner, helles, vienna, pale ale, dry stout, etc. This A.D.D craze I speak of makes fiscal sense, but it’s unsustainable. For breweries only concerned about the bottom line, lagers just aren’t as cost effective. Personally, I think many of these brewers are too scared to brew lagers, you can’t hide flaws in low ABV beers with minimal hop content. One of the best brewers I know says he “can see into a brewer’s soul by how their lagers taste.” Sadly, the truth is lagers don’t create the same revenue (and buzz) as the hazy imperial IPA.
Nothing tastes as good as having cash flow feels
Lagers have the longest tank residency, typically months, whereas IPAs can be turned over in 2 weeks. The longer that lager “lagers” equals less sales opportunities. Sure, that trendy IPA is more expensive to brew with all the hops required in the recipe, but if you’re selling each 15-gal keg for 150% more than that pilsner, the equation is simple, keep pumping out “new” one-off IPA releases. You can also brew 3 of those IPAs in the time of 1 lager. Not to mention, the velocity in which they turnover in beer bars is typically much faster. There’s not much incentive for the brewer to stop brewing these IPAs. The worst part is, I can guarantee, a huge majority of these brewers hate the flavor of these beers, but nothing tastes as good as having cash flow feels.
We’ve all done the craft beer world a disservice by trying to satisfy the consumers fickle attention span. We’ve created this palate that prioritizes cool and ignores clean, classic flavor.
We’ve seen a lot of innovation in beer, for better or worse, but we should be trying to educate the consumer on objectively good beer. Bar owners, instead of taking the easy road and offering a lineup of 80% IPAs, change it up and encourage classic beer styles.
Brewers, don’t be such a one trick pony, offer your patrons a variety of beers. Test yourself and put out multiple styles, don’t get confined to 1 yeast. Consumers, don’t get caught up in the buzz, most of these rare, seasonal releases are a core beer offering with 1 new hop addition, a pun-ny name and a shiny new label. Don’t demand a new beer every week, demand consistent, clean product, which is the only cure to this A.D.D epidemic.
Sales Director – Berryessa Brewing Co
Founder – Muertos Coffee Co
P.S I love IPAs, these IPAs I speak of are not India pale ales
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