The “middle” of the craft beer market is dead. Successful craft brewers caught between the mega corporations like AB InBev and the nimble locally focused brewers are either selling to the big boys (e.g. New Belgium Brewery) or downsizing (e.g. Boulder Beer). Heck, even the big boys are getting out of the craft beer game after realizing that nationally distributed craft beers are not really attractive to a consumer with hyper local choices. Yes, I am looking at you Constellation Brands.
Instead of forking over money to a faraway brewery that might actually just be a faraway mega corporation, make your beer consumption as local as possible.
Better yet, make your beer consumption a direct affair. Buy your beer directly from the brewery. Do not involve a distributor or a retailer. Make every dollar go to the brewery. It can make a difference. The most successful new breweries—over the past five years or so—seem to be the ones who operate with a taproom as their primary source of revenue. Why? It cuts out the middle man and avoids the headaches of distribution.
Even when you buy local beer at the grocery store it potentially involves a number of middle men. In some states it is possible for your local brewery to “self-distribute” but this is a hard road and really only works in a hyper local type of market. Even in this instance there is the retail outlet’s need for some level of profit.
Going further, make your beer consumption a packaging neutral affair.
The old saw about recycling an aluminum can is that it saves approximately 95% of the energy compared to creating an aluminum can out of virgin ore. This is usually equated to running a light bulb for an entire day or watching a television for a couple of hours. Calculate a different way, recycling one pound of aluminum (approximately 33 cans or a “dirty thirty” of PBR) saves around 7 kWh of electricity.
However, even recycling that aluminum can uses energy and contributes to a global supply chain that uses a lot of energy. The aluminum supply chain, unfortunately, does not have a 100% recovery rate as evidenced by the number of cans I pick up along my usual cycling route in a given week. Removing any volume from this supply chain is an environmental win.
By utilizing a reusable package, in this case a glass growler or “meowler,” removes aluminum packaging from the waste/recovery stream. I am sure that there is a calculation to figure out how many times I need to use a growler to compensate for its own production costs in terms of energy, but given that I have owned the same growler for almost five years I am going to consider those costs accounted for several times over.
The goal is to buy beer that is made locally, purchased directly from the brewery, and in packaging that is reusable. Local, direct, and packaging neutral. It’s the future.