Point-of-View: It’s Just Beer, Right?

I recently spent a few days with my family in beautiful Carlsbad, California, about 30 minutes north of San Diego (one of the largest producers of craft beer in the country). Family obligations and a busy schedule kept me from even a fraction of the brewery-bopping that I would have otherwise loved to do. However, I was fortunate enough to steal away a few minutes to visit one of the great mainstays of the SoCal craft beer world, The Lost Abbey

While there, I had a conversation with one of their employees about the history of Lost Abbey, social media influencers, the persistence of hazy IPAs, and the recent kerfuffle with Brewbound. It was a lot of information and exchange of musings in a pretty tight timeframe, and as I sat there enjoying my beer, a part of me took a mental step back. I mean, this is just beer, right? When did it become the type of industry that allowed for so many talking points and, in some cases, so much contention? I’ll get to that in a minute.  

One of the beers I enjoyed from Lost Abbey’s ‘sister brand,’ the Hop Concept, was an easy-drinking ale called ‘It’s So Damn Hot.’ Having enjoyed several of Lost Abbey’s renowned Belgians and sours, I wanted an easy sipper. At 5% with a light hop taste, it was exactly what I needed. It reminded me of another easy-drinking ale recently launched by Idle Hands (client): Slate. 

This isn’t a non-sequitur. I have found more breweries trying to balance the demand for adjunct-laden stouts and quadruple-hopped hazy IPAs with simple, refreshing beers that you don’t need to overthink. In addition, there is an increasing demand for ‘healthier’ (or at least lighter) alternatives to beers that are perceived as too heavy or unhealthy. I’ve written a bit ad nauseum about the spike of hard seltzer in previous articles.  

My personal takeaways around what I perceive as the beginning of a pendulum shift are that:

A) People are experiencing palate fatigue

B) They are tired of the hype train and just want some return to normalcy, and/or 

C) They recognize that, in the end, beer is just meant to be enjoyed. 

The mood in the air around the responsibility of breweries to their communities, the role of social media influencers, and how best to captivate the flickering (at best) attention span of young, enthusiastic but brand-promiscuous brewery-goers is not one that most head brewers or owners feel compelled to spend much time on. Thankfully, more and more breweries are hiring marketers or engaging with experienced agencies to help weather some of these storms so that they can concentrate on what they do best: making beer.