As a self-proclaimed Beer Geek I often find myself checking out a restaurant’s beer list before I decide if it’s really where I want to go have a nice dinner or not. If you’ve ever looked at a Happy Hour list or daily specials at your local watering hole you are no stranger to the fact that Craft Beer takes a back seat to the big boys on the block. Mind you, I’m not talking about the tap rooms or establishments that pride themselves on local, state, and Craft Beer offerings in general. I’m talking about the places where they force down the American macro-lagers; Bud, Miller, and Coors (BMC). We’ve all been there when we see specials for $2 domestics or $6 buckets. Go ahead, ask for a Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada and get your bill for $5.75.”Oh, that’s an import.” they’ll say. Imported from where? Boston? California? Give me a break! Bars and restaurants have started calling these larger craft offerings “Premium”. In other words, not available for their specials funded my the big marketing machine of BMC.
I’ve always wondered if the Craft Beer industry can play by these same rules, or better yet, can they afford to?
Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. I assume that no matter what kind of beer is being served, you will have a segment of customers that will always order a Coors Light. It’s what they know. It’s what they like. Well what if that Coors Light costs $8? Would they still order it? Would the distributor who supplies the establishment allow it? Would Coors allow the distributor to allow it? Better yet, could an establishment charge seven or eight dollars for a BMC product and also give the customer a craft offering of similar style along with their original order? Basically they are paying for both the macro ($3) and micro ($5) order and it’s up to them to drink it or not. Order a Blue Moon and you get it along with a local Hefeweizen. It’s one way of opening eyes and minds to a better world of beer appreciation. I’m no economist, and the burden would be on the retailer in this case, but could the perception change with a shift in pricing?
I know that the whole three-tiered system of brewers-distributors-retailers is complicated, messy, and political (If you haven’t learned about the process I encourage you to view the documentary film Beer Wars). This is probably a key reason why moving into a head-to-head battle of marketing wits with BMC would never work out for smaller Craft Beer breweries or the retailers that serve them. It is definitely a losing battle in the end. Personally, I would prefer that the smaller breweries spend they hard earned dollars on improving their products and expanding their distribution organically. As the popularity of local breweries grows this will hopefully lead to more consistent products from them, and in time, consistency could be what turns more of the general public on to the diverse and wonderful world that is Craft Beer.