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How will craft brewers stand out?

For those of us who run in craft beer circles,  it's easy to forget that, proportionately, almost no one drinks craft beer. As with any culture, immersion can give you a false sense of superiority in numbers as well as in beliefs. But of course, the former isn't true. The good news is, a staggering number of people, because of all the craft beer noise, are about to start drinking craft beer more regularly. According to this story from the San Diego Union-Tribune, craft beer sales may double next year.  On the Delmarva Peninsula, home to +Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, we have added six or so breweries in the last five years. While we may add more, as a regular patron of many of the local breweries, the trend seems to be plateauing. The novelty has begun to wear off and, in some instances, novelty was all there was to begin with. It is this notion about novelty that made a quote by Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione in the linked story stand out. 
To succeed, Calagione said, newcomers will have to make great beer consistently — and then, because so many breweries already do this, find ways to stand out in this crowd. Dogfish Head partnered with several apparel companies for a line of casual clothing, and now operates the Dogfish Inn. Escondido’s Stone, which already runs two large restaurants, also plans to open a boutique hotel.
Whether marketing hot sauces or spirits, Calagione warned, breweries must ensure that these products reflect their values. Every brewery, he said, needs a well-defined personality, a quality that differentiates it from its competitors.
One of the difficulties this presents is style over substance. New breweries have two hurdles to overcome. The first is to make themselves stand out without relying too heavily on being gimmicky. Toys, bumper stickers, and strangely-flavored beers only will get you so far. When people think of the craft beer revolution as a fad, this is why. And they're right. As brewers race to produce more and odder beer already are sacrificing complexity for literal flavoring. A candy apple flavored beer can't be well branded enough to be sustainable.
The second is a better informed public. Even as few as five years ago, craft beer makers could tap a misfire without too much notice or consequence. It's not the case any longer, people have the intellectual latitude to evaluate beer. The criteria for most people at the turn of the century was: is it wet and will it get me drunk? Now, as it has been for decades with wine, people have come to the understanding that they don't need to be experts to evaluate the taste experience for themselves and render a verdict on a beer's quality. It still boils down to drinkability, but, without brand loyalty, craft brewers are going to have to find a way to corral taste Frankensteins (like me) they've encouraged.

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