The Session #102 - Scanning The Beer Landscape
When I first read the topic for The Session #102, by first response was — hum. A long hummmm, like where do you begin. So, I wanted to make this not a note not about the numbers. How many breweries there are currently compared to five years ago. But rather a personal observation about my beer world. Taking a pause and thinking, what has changed in regards to the beers I have available and within my reach.
A couple of things came to mind: expansions and distribution, and local laws. These are personal observations, not based on the Craft Beer Association or interviews with local brewers, although that may be a good place to start with expanding on these topics.
Expansion and Distribution
Good breweries and coming into our local markets, and that is a good thing. As I travel for business I am always looking for good local beer. I discovered Bell's Two Hearted Ale a few years ago on a trip to the Upper Pennisula of Michigan. Yes, they have finally come to Maryland. Other recent advances to our local beer scene includes Sweet Water (Atlanta, GA) and Clown Shoes (Ipswich, MA).
It seems that I now all of the breweries that started up a couple years ago are looking to expand their reach. Breweries that were looking to keep there distribution close are now expanding into our area. New beers, new options. I've seen this happen before with other out-of-state breweries with some catching on. A good example is Roy Pitz Brewing in Chambersburg, PA. One of the brewer/partners has some local connections and has actually come to local tastings, sharing their philosophy on brewing and ingredients. The personal touch really sells beer — of course it must be good to keep selling.
I've also seen this not work well for some beers, where there was an initial success and after the new wears off, they fade away and off the shelves.
I work some evenings in a local package goods store — The Winery. As you would expect, it has a great wine selection but has really taken on the craft beer movement with gusto. Last year a state law was passed that allowed our county, and therefore The Winery, to schedule beer tastings. So every Thursday, local beer enthusists could drop in and try new beers from breweries entering our market, beer themes such as pumpkin beers or Oktoberfests, GABF winners. Win-Win-Win — taste more beer (beer drinkers), sell more beer (local businesses), increase tax base (state/local governments.
This year another state law was passed that allowed local businesses (with the proper licenses) to sell growlers. Again, another win-win-win for the same reasons mentioned previously. This expansion in beer buying options has been around in other areas (one county over) for awhile, but has been an immediate success. More than providing a new method of bringing beer home, more importantly it expands the selections of beers that are available since many will are only distributed in kegs.
I understand that some other Maryland counties that do not allow for the establishment of breweries without serving food. Again, local businesses are petitioning local officals to change these rules in favor of the consumer and exanding business opportunities.
So, the bottom line is this, the universe that has become craft beer is much like the universe itself — expanding at an increasing rate. It truely is a good time to be a beer drinker. I send out a hearty thank you to those the make this stuff and the local government leaders with their heads on straight that allow it to come to us. Cheers!