Building a Craft Beer Brand to Believe In

In 2012, a new brewery opened in the United States just about every day of the year—a total of 345 new breweries—and an estimated 1200 additional breweries were in the planning stages.

The Brewers Association recently released current brewery statistics that leave last year’s numbers in the dust. As of May 31—not even at the halfway point of the year—a total of 422 new US breweries had opened in 2013—greater than the total number of breweries that opened in all of 2012. And the BA now estimates that 1559 additional breweries are in the planning stages.

That’s a lot of competition. But even in craft-beer-centric California, there’s room for more craft breweries (according to this New Yorker interactive map, based on Brewers Association stats, California’s 316 breweries offer a scant four breweries per half million people). At least, there’s room right now.

But even the BA wonders, “When will this trend crest?” Next question: when will those brewery numbers start to descend, thanks to market over-saturation and resulting closures?

And the biggest question of all: after the inevitable paring down of microbrewery numbers, who will be left standing—er, pouring?

There’s a lot of great craft beer out there now. There’s also plenty of mediocre craft beer that sells well enough, thanks to craft beer fanatics and people who love the hashtag #DrinkLocal. But that can take a craft brewery just so far—particularly in areas that are sparsely populated. And though keg accounts and shelf space can be one path to a craft brewery’s long-term success, more breweries = more competition for both. (Even exhibitor spots at the Great American Beer Festival are now tough to nab; the 600 available spots sold out in an unprecedented two hours last week, shutting out hundreds of would-be exhibitors.)

AdWeek points out that Big Beer believes craft-beer drinkers are only interested in taste—but that’s far from the whole story. Craft beer lovers want to become craft beer evangelists. They want to believe in a brewery.

Does your craft beer brand give them something to believe in?

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