After reading the April 7, 2016 Wall Street Journal article “Upstart Brewers Rise Against Craft Beer Found Father Samuel Adams”, I happened to re-watch the great documentary “Crafting a Nation” and it struck me that there are two pretty distinct groups of craft brewers out there. You have the ones, like Jim Koch, who started in the 80’s and are now mature and succesful operations. They have an entirely different set of needs than the other, larger group of brewers who have started in the last 7-10 years.
The pioneers of craft, while they have the advantage of name recognition and experience, are facing issues of continuing to innovate and remaining relevant, as well as thinking about issues like succession planning, ESOPs, maintaining and growing market share, etc. The newer brewers are looking at issues resulting from strong growth: expanding beyond their original plant; investment in sales, marketing, and distribution; and hiring & retaining the right core group of employees. They have very different needs, depending on where they are in their company development.
The great part about craft brewing is that so many brewers are happy to talk to and provide advice to other brewers. And with so many challenges and changes in the industry, we hope that comaraderie can continue. The Brewers Association has a lot of work in front of it as they try to provide the industry with some guidance for those battles ahead.