Oregon Breweries to grow or seriously to grow?

As a brewery owner, I get the great privilege of traveling to different beer classes, tastings and educational activities as we like to call them in the industry. Last weekend, I was privileged to go to “Beervana” otherwise known by most as Portland, Oregon.
Our brewery is pondering the next great adventure in our growth and we have decided that we need to go BIG. We are considering an industrial off site brewery somewhere in Southern Oregon that would be designed solely for bottling/canning and full distribution. With this premise in mind we realize we have to be better yeast wranglers. Another words, we have to learn how to grow and keep our yeast in laboratory conditions. This class I went to touched on the basics of keeping your yeast, propagating it, and taking care of it for consistency and performance.
In this class, I got the great privilege of meeting many different brewers and owners from all walks of life in various different brewing settings and capacities. I spoke with several different folks. From the very small 2 barrel systems all the way up to a very large facility about to open in China. I realized through our conversations that there is one common theme amongst us all, especially in Oregon. We are ALL very busy and struggling to keep up with demand. It seems no matter how big you go, the volumes still manage to sell and you are constantly running to keep up with demand. So the question for these brave beverage based entrepreneurs is “How big is too big, and how big do you go”? I think the general consensus answer is “As big as you can possibly afford”
Well that starts to make me wonder, is there a ceiling in this market? Is there a beer bubble that will eventually pop leaving all of us with these huge tanks sitting empty, yeast drying up and not chewing on any more sugar. Grain going rotten along with stale hops. Sort of a beer apocalypse, the end of an era.
I guess at some point every market has a saturation point, but just where that is for craft breweries I don’t think anyone can predict. I do however have some opinions as to why I think the craft brewing revolution will continue to grow and evolve.
First of all lets look at the largest player in the BEER world. Anheuser Busch- Inbev (AB-Inbev) corporation has annual sales of approximately 36.4 billion dollars. The big brilliant minds in this large company have noticed a drop in sales due to a larger market share going to the craft side of beer brewing. As a result AB-Inbev is spending massive dollars on purchasing these smaller craft breweries to maintain and or grow their market share. So let me ask our readers this, if a company as large as AB-Inbev is willing to spend millions upon millions in the acquisition of these craft breweries why would they invest and just absolve them? The simple answer is THEY WOULDN’T! They bought these smaller companies because they realize some of their regular consumers have converted to drinking locally made small craft beers.

We see this trend every day in our brewery. Someone will come in and ask “what do you have close to BUD?” We give them our alternative to a lighter lager and 9 times out of 10, they exclaim how good it is, and they will take it. I think that the craft brewing industry is not only getting converts every day but they are also tapping into the younger market of beer drinkers that are realizing quality over quantity. Today’s consumer also likes to support local business and one of the greatest ways to do that is by purchasing your adult libations locally. So in looking at the beer bubble long term, I think it will be a long time before it POPS. I think there is simply a paradigm shift from MACRO to MICRO, so it appears there is a big bubble occuring, but it is just the market shifting.

So let’s have the next brave craft brewer come along and make a working man’s beer that is excellent and cheap and made locally. One that you can buy in 24 packs that is competitive with the big beer yet gives us the flavor of a craft brew. Don’t worry world it is definitely something we are working on. Here’s to growth. So until next time may your pints be full and your taps always flowing.

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  • About the Author

    Craig McPheeters

    Craig J. McPheeters is a freelance writer, founding brewer of Bricktowne Brewing Co. and a registered Beer Judge Certification Program beer-competition judge. He is actively authoring two publications set to be published by 2018. When he isn't ... Full Profile
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