So I had a thought; what if I wrote a post at the end of every year sharing what I learned about craft beer? Recalling the past would be a great way to put things into perspective. Year after year, I would be able to see the what new things I learned about craft beer.
Seemed like a good idea so even though my blog is brand new, here is the 2016 edition!
2016 has been a good year for craft beer; scratch that, it has been a GREAT year for craft beer. The number of breweries continue to grow and the community gets stronger. I consider 2016 to be the first year that I really took my love of craft beer to the next level. I intentionally visited more breweries, connected with fellow enthusiasts, focused on local beers and started this blog.
So here is what I learned about craft beer this year.
It’s all about community
The idea of the Craft Beer Community was something brand new to me this year. At first, I thought it was just for the hardcore enthusiasts and the home brewers but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The community is open to everyone regardless of your experience or demographic. Every craft brewery that I visit is inviting and inclusive. They speak to their customers with interest and desire to help them learn more about craft beer. And it is not just the breweries; local bottle shops have outgoing team members that help all customers make their next beer selection. On countless occasions, other enthusiasts have reached out to do something for me with nothing in return. It may be a recommendation of what beer to try or in a some cases they send me beer to try.
It is really all about the community – I say that a lot and I think I am going to continue to say it a lot. It’s just the reality. People are finding common ground around beer and it brings people together.
Beer events are evolving
In my full time job, I go a quite a few events. These events are industry specific and all of them are very similar. To remain relevant, everyone attempts to do something unique to attract more attendees. Some people try to add value through education while others aim to entertain. The craft beer world isn’t any different; the traditional beer events are a dime a dozen now. Evolving is critical to keep consumers interested in beer events.
In 2016, Cincinnati experienced a craft beer and boxing event (local brewers were the fighters). Other breweries work hard to put on an event with hard to find beer. I will write more about these unique events in the future but the point is events are changing. Breweries can no longer simply set up a booth with a few beers on tap and expect a crowd. Yes, there will still be plenty of those types of events but the most successful events will offer more because consumers want an experience to go along with their brew.
Aging beer might not be for me
It was probably early summer that I realized my beer buying was significantly out pacing my beer drinking. I never intended to age any beer but I just couldn’t drink it as fast as I was acquiring it. This doesn’t sound like a bad problem to have but the beer was stacking up. I probably enjoy 5 or so beers a week which means even a six pack a week is too much for me. On top of that, local and national brands were experiencing some issues with “infected” barrel aged beers. I think we all know the store about Bourbon County Brand Stout by Goose Island in 2015.
These two factors made me think twice about holding onto beer for an extended amount of time. I was buying too much and may end up with beer that no longer tastes the way that the brewer intended. I still have a handful of beers that have been sitting for up to a year but my goal is to keep that to a minimum. This year, the goal will be to drink beer fresh rather than worry about the long term quality.
I need to be more social
Instagram is my favorite social media platform and from what I can tell most of the craft beer world agrees. There is a lot of engagement on there and I am always learning something new or finding a beer to try but it is easy to focus too much on social media and not focused on actually getting to know other beer enthusiasts. I need to be more social. I am starting to make strides in this area by meeting up with some other local craft beer fans and getting to know some of the breweries better. Liking and commenting on social media is fun but it doesn’t replace the face to face experience.
People care about ABV (maybe too much)
Ohio passed a law that removed the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) cap on beer. In the past, breweries were not able to sell beer in Ohio that was over 11.9% ABV. Many saw this as a hindrance to the craft beer movement as some of the most desired beers have a high ABV. The craft beer community applauded when this was removed and Ohio breweries began brewing 12%+ beer immediately. Out of state breweries celebrated by sending in their high alcohol options; Dogfish Head 120 Minute and Sam Adams Utopia to name a few. This is all very positive for the state of Ohio and it’s beer industry.
However, for me, it brought to light that some of us are obsessed with the ABV. I fall victim of this all the time. Typically the first thing I notice about a beer, after the name and style, is the alcohol level. ABV is important but shouldn’t determine whether I decide to buy it. Consumers get excited when they hear a beer has a high ABV as if it will guarantee that it will be good. High ABV will remain a key attribute of the beer experience but I think it is less important that most of think it is. Instead, let’s focus on the taste of the beer.
I have a lot left to learn!
2016 has been fun for those in craft beer. It is an exciting time and I have no doubt that 2017 will be just as good. As a newbie to craft beer and blogging, I have a lot to learn. I want to learn more about each style, specific hops, and the brewing process. I want to learn about the regulations, distribution and marketing techniques that impact breweries.
At the end of 2017, I want to look back to see that I am more knowledgeable but also that I helped the community grow.
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