How Has Craft Beer Changed The Image of Beer?

Recently, I found the following interviews covering the reactions of folks in the beer industry to the effect of the craft beers on the general perception of “beer”.

The following five brewery owners, four brewers, one owner/brewer, one chef, and Charlie Papazian give their thoughts on the influence of the Craft Beers on the general perception of the beer market.

Keep in mind the following was before the pandemic.

Artisan Is No Longer the Exception

Will Meyers – Brewer at Cambridge Brewing Co.

I would say that the rise of craft beer’s most significant effect has been to help wake up the populace and help them realize that corporations and industrial producers do not have the consumers’ best interests in mind. They pander to the lowest common denominator and force-market their wares, attempting to convince people that bland is what you want. The changes in the economy over the last 15 years has helped awaken people to the fact that smaller, more local producers create flavor and increase the enjoyment of life – whether with beer, bread, cheese, or what have you. Local artisanal producers keep money in the community, revitalize neighborhoods, create jobs, and offer people a sense of place. The growth of the craft beer movement has helped to bring about a sea change. The public is becoming more aware of the opportunity to consume quality over quantity.

Further, American beer is now respected the world over. American Craft Beer has sparked a similar brewing revolution in many of the countries that initially served as our own inspirations – Germany, England, Belgium – as well as spawning nascent craft beer industries in Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand, Japan, China, Italy, Poland… the list goes on!

American Beer Influencing World Brewing

Chef Bruce D. Paton – The Beer Chef

Small breweries have entirely altered the general perception in many ways. Thirty years ago, one would be hard-pressed to find a quality beer in this country, and now it is the best place in the world to find beer.

American brewers are influencing their counterparts in the European countries that gave birth to modern beer. The consumers of American brewery products have gone from mainly blue-collar males to everyone.

Craft Beer Goes Mainstream

Stephen Hale –  Brewer at Schlafly Brewing Co.

Craft has become mainstream, which to me means it’s getting back to where it once was and very much belongs. People realize that beer comes in many more styles and flavors than the lighter lagers most beer drinkers had available to them for so many years.

Al Marzi – Brewer at Mass. Bay Brewing Co.

The increase in small breweries has helped continue to increase awareness of craft beer to the general public. As craft beer has become more pervasive, it is no longer just found in beer bars. It can be found in mainstream chain restaurants and sports venues. This has helped make craft beer more approachable to a greater number of people.

Created Consumer Awareness

Sam Calagione – Owner/Brewer Dogfish Head Brewing Co.

Collectively American craft breweries have reignited consumer excitement for flavorful beer, across the country but also globally. 

Homebrewing Even More Popular

Charlie Papazian – Founder of American Homebrewers Association

The most significant and ongoing effect on beer’s popular perception has been homebrewing and homebrewers and their homebrewed beers. 

With 1.25 Million homebrewers today, that’s 1 out of every 200 adults.  And each homebrewer undoubtedly shares with 50 of their friends and family.  The sum of all those experiences is very powerful.

It Created a More Sophisticated Consumer

Jim Kock – Owner Boston Beer Company

It’s hard for many drinkers to remember, but thirty years ago, the beer landscape was much different from today. In 1984, when Samuel Adams Boston Lager was first brewed, it was considered an outlier, an extreme beer because of its complex yet balanced hop flavor profile and full body. There was nothing else like it sold in the market. More than thirty years later, we, along with our fellow craft brewers, are continuing to experiment with new and interesting ingredients and brewing methods, which makes our jobs as brewers so exciting.

Today, drinkers have more sophisticated palates than drinkers generally did years ago. Craft beer drinkers are passionate, curious, and always looking to explore different flavor profiles and styles of beer and pair or cook with beer as part of their everyday lives. Craft beer drinkers have adopted and are exploring craft beer the way their parents adopted wine 30 years ago. When this happened, the wine industry experienced significant growth, which we’re seeing now in the world of craft beer.

Steve Hindy – Owner Brooklyn Brewing Co.

America’s craft brewers have educated two or three generations of US beer drinkers about the incredible range of this wonderful, inexpensive beverage beer.  They have converted one beer drinker at a time, and these converts have gone out to convert more beer drinkers.  Today that means passionate people at 3500 breweries are at work educating Americans about beer.  Word of mouth marketing is slow but very, very powerful.  There now is an incredible base of passionate craft beer drinkers, and their numbers are growing exponentially.  They are discovering our beers and spreading the word about them.  The advent of social media has super-charged this process.

Garrett Oliver – Brewer at Brooklyn Brewing Co.

        Slowly, the place of beer in the market is being re-balanced to what it should be. When people think of wine, they always think about the upper 10% of the market, not the bag-in-box wines or jugged wines that makeup 90% of the market. When people think of beer, they have concentrated on the 90% of beer at the bottom, the industrial lager. Now people are starting to realize that beer is both “high” and “low,” and it is just as appropriate in a 4-star restaurant as it is at a baseball game. And even baseball stadiums and airports are getting good beer lists.

Redefining Beer Brewed in the U.S.

Tod Mott – Brewer/Owner at Tributary Brewing Co.

I believe the most significant effect on the general population is that not all beer has to be yellow fizzy, bland and flavorless… but in fact, all beer can be relatively good if brewed with integrity and passion.

Charlie Storey – Owner of Mass. Bay Brewing Co.

Beer is now appreciated for many of the same things as wine: a variety of flavors, variety of sources, variety of drinking experiences, prestige, an opportunity for connoisseurship, narratives about beer and breweries that go beyond “well, at my bachelor party we drank….”

Now Expect the Unexpected

Stephen Demczuk – Owner – Raven Beer

That beer is alive, it changes, it moves, it varies, it is simple but also complex, it is fun, and to quote Bill Owens, “it’s alive, got legs and can crawl out of its glass.” Also, that today’s beer is not your dad’s beverage.  Expect the unexpected— some good, some bad, some indifferent, but it is always a surprise.  The USA is the world’s leader in beer variety.  We are such an unconventional group as a whole; why stick to the conventional styles— let’s explore.

In Conclusion

The influence of the first “microbreweries” in the 1970’s has been tremendous. At that time there was almost universal acceptance of “American Lager Beer.”

In the early 1970’s home-brews were demanding more flavored commercial beers. Imported beer was in big demand. And the development of the “microbreweries” was being championed by a rather dedicated group.

And so, today, there are more varieties of commercial beer brewed in the United States of America than in the rest of the world.

Craft beer has taken the beer world by storm and gained tremendous popularity. Find out all about it here
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Ralph Yedinak
Ralph Yedinak
3 years ago

getting goof beer lists, from Garrett Oliver’s quote. Might want to fix that.

First, let me introduce myself. I am Peter LaFrance, author of Beer Basics and Cooking & Eating With Beer, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. – 1995). I have also been published in American Brewer, All About Beer, and Ale Street News.

I have been writing about the brewing industry since 1984. Credits include contributing editor for Restaurant Management and Top Shelf magazines. I have also written for Beverage Media, New Brewer, Beverage Dynamics, and All About Beer magazine.

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