Craft beer finally has a seat at the front of the class, and the rest of the industry is taking notice. Currently, we're seeing the largest year-over-year growth for craft beer, with more breweries in existence than at any other time in U.S. history.
The big breweries are responding, with Anheuser-Busch continually adding new craft breweries to its portfolio of "high end" products. Luckily, established craft brewers are responding as well, either by altering their company structures or participating in local and regional brewers' guilds. Small craft breweries are uniting in the "battle" versus big beer.
So then, what is the state of the craft beer industry? According to the Brewers Association at the Craft Brewers Conference held in Philadelphia May 3-6, it's still strong. Board Chairman Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing says more members are joining the ranks of the Brewers Association than leaving due to a change in ownership or acquisition, and the independent brewing industry continues to gain momentum in the global market space.
Tod continuously stressed that brewers shouldn't rest on their laurels. That has been the focus of the Brewers Association as of late, with the newly formed Quality Subcommittee helping small breweries maintain a high-quality product. One thing small, independent brewers can do to make sure they continue to thrive — even when or if AB-InBev and SAB Miller unite as one global brewing conglomerate — is to make better beer tomorrow than the beer they make today.
The state of craft beer is strong. I say it again because independent breweries are growth engines for their cities, communities and neighborhoods. They create jobs, provide community meeting spaces and foster cooperation. Small breweries are driven by their passion and creativity and love for the beer they make, and beer drinkers are drawn to that.
The Brewers Association does not define what makes a craft beer — only a craft brewer. By limiting its membership to small, independent breweries, the Brewers Association strives to help fight for small breweries on state, national and global levels. In the long run, consumers care about who makes their beer; they care about the stories and the people and the process.
Beer is about the people who make it, the people who drink it, and the connections it helps develop. Without the people involved, craft beer would just be a monstrous corporation that turns blue when its message gets cold enough. Remember, drink what you like and drink craft beer.