Exporting beer and a revolution


Oddly, though, Boxer Light hasn't
taken Belgium by storm
Twenty years ago, I would tell you that Belgium was the greatest brewing country in the world. And today I would say it's the United States. -- John McDonald, Founder of Boulevard Brewing Company, in an +NPR story.

Exporting a revolution


Late last year, Belgian beer company +Duvel Moortgat closed a deal to buy +Boulevard Brewing Co. primarily to secure an American craft beer for export (or, I guess, import, depending upon your perspective). The word from all involved is nothing will change about the beer, and, while there's tons of historical evidence that corporate culture will have an affect on the beer, there's no evidence that Duvel isn't a quality beer company. It's billed as a Belgian craft brewery and is a family owned company.
More recently, Lagunitas sniped at Boston Beer for making a West Coast IPA that was, they say, an attempt to horn in on their market. It's odd, as Samuel Adams has been a supporter of smaller breweries without becoming a monster acquirer of them. 
As larger companies expand to keep up with demand, and smaller companies feel the heat of the need to expand, the craft beer bubble already is starting to feel pretty precarious. In a classic case of "careful what you wish for," demand among the faithful is getting more diverse. For the last decade, mid-sized and small craft breweries have been the vanguards of democratized beer. They've encouraged everyone to try something new, to develop a palate for beer the way some people have developed a palate for wine. This demand has made it so breweries like Lagunitas have had success in the east and east coast standard-bearers like Dogfish Head have been lured for westward expansion.
That's more like it...

Dated Thinking, Dated Brewing


Under the 20th century brewing model, there is a finite demand for beer. And as the baby boomers increasingly leave the beer market, taking their decades-old Bud and Miller loyalties with them, demand clearly will shrink precipitously. This is true only if the model of beer being primarily purchased by middle-aged American, working class white guys holds. And guess what? It ain't.Better beer isn't a trend, it's a sea change. Most people understand that there are standards for beer, now that have more to do with taste than price and ability to get wasted with. The gimmicky aspect of selling beer is going to start to fade. There still will be plenty of gimmicks (both from craft brewers and their craft-y counterparts), but the significant difference is this new, rising understanding of quality. I might switch from Bud Light to Miller Lite for a cool toy, but I'm not going to switch from 60 Minute IPA to Blue Moon because of a keychain giveaway.

And then there's planet earth...


If Belgium sees the importance of getting quality American beers for import, and England does as well. Beyond that, the idea of craft brewing that has been fighting to return both to Europe and the Americas over the past 30 years, finally has caught fire. 
China is preparing to hold a major craft beer festival again and, although there's no way even to conceive of it now, if American craft beer catches on there, we can plow under the tobacco farms and plant hop hills. More realistically, though, the idea of craft beer, which is taking hold in China, only will continue to spread.