Beer, Beautiful Beer; Where Mainstream and Craft Collide
A recent conversation about which “mainstream” lager I prefer brought about a new juxtaposition in my never ending quest for ultimate beer knowledge; are some craft beers now considered mainstream? My immediate response to the lager question was ‘Yuengling”, but within a breath I remembered that Yuengling, although mainstream, is considered “craft” in that it outputs no more than 6 million barrels of beer a year. (In 2010 the rules changed to accommodate one of the Board of Director’s brewery’s expansion. Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams helped to facilitate an increase from 2 million barrels a year to 6 million a year.)
Yuengling was (and is) America’s first brewery, and technically due to their output and standards they are still considered craft beer, making them also the first craft brewery. Yuengling is oftentimes found alongside the taps in bars that specialize in serving macro beers (Coors, Bud, Miller). Does it really matter? Mainstream or not? The popularity and growth of the craft beer market have made many craft breweries “mainstream”. Sam Adams, Dogfish Head and Lagunitas all come to mind. And by the way, has anyone here yet bought that $12.00 12-ounce bottle of ‘Higher Math’ from Dogfish Head? Now I never made it into the AP math classes, but my simple math tells me that calculates to a dollar an ounce. I’d rather buy a four or six pack at that price and enjoy my beer for a….longer session.
So am I crossing the line in saying that craft beer is now considered mainstream? After all, craft brewries make up almost 20% of the overall beer market in the good ole’ US of A. This is a good thing, but sometimes good things turn bad. For instance, I once bought a beautifully hopped beer and shelved it for a year, the hops deteriorated and the beer skunked. Lesson learned. Another happenstance is that there are so many craft beers on the market right now that it can be down right daunting when searching for new, great beers. The market, in my eyes…and mouth, has become a bit watered down, and heavy on the malts.
Yes folks, it could well be that the integrity of craft beer is quickly becoming a tempest in a teacup. Let’s hope that the craft “mainstream” breweries to survive this swell in the craft beer market never become the INBev’s that cornered and monopolized a prosperous, recession proof market for decades. The positive flip side is the near immediate, almost always access to great beer, albeit at a more ( yet reasonably) costly price.
Or, as Sweetwater Brewing said of it’s ‘420’ Pale Ale, “Don’t Float the Mainstream”. Of course this slogan was marketed nearly a decade ago and so much has changed since then.
On a side note, who in the hell is buying all of those pumpkin spiced beers? You know who you are….