Taprooms and direct-to-consumer sales were hot topics during this year’s Craft Brewers Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Two seminars — “Building Your Brand Through the Tasting Room” and “Defense and Promotion of Tasting Rooms” — focused on the phenomenon that has agitated some retailers and wholesalers, but the topic bled into other conversations throughout the week.
Earlier this month, nearly 14,000 beer industry professionals traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, hosted by trade group the Brewers Association. The BA used the gathering to further draw a line between the companies it represents — small and independent U.S. breweries — and those brands owned by larger, international beer conglomerates.
Firestone Walker has 805. New Belgium has Dayblazer. Founders has Solid Gold. Boston Beer has Sam ’76 and Sierra Nevada has BFD (Beer For Drinking). The common thread linking each of those brands? They’re all less than 5 percent ABV and marketed to consumers as “drinkable,” “crushable,” “light,” or “easygoing.”
Calagione — along with Brooklyn Brewery VP Dave Duffy, The BWC Company director of analytics Dave Williams and Lowes Foods senior category manager Charles Slezak — discussed the evolving craft landscape and more during a panel discussion on “Retail Strategies for Craft Brewers.
One week after being named the Brewers Association’s new diversity ambassador, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham presented to hundreds of Craft Brewers Conference attendees about the challenges of diversifying the brewing industry. “We all want to diversify craft beer,” she said, “but why is doing this so hard?”
In today’s craft beer environment, it pays to be a startup. According to Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson, breweries founded after 2014 are driving the majority of segment growth. Those breweries collectively added 916,000 barrels to the category in 2017, which represents growth of 52.6 percent versus 2016. Breweries founded before 2014, however, added 285,000 barrels to the craft segment and collectively grew just 1.3 percent.
The Brewers Association (BA) wants more beer companies to adopt the “independent craft brewer seal.” To help the effort, the non-for-profit trade group, which represents the interests of small and independent craft breweries, tripled down on its promotion of the indie badge during this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, taking place in Nashville.