How Craft Brews Can On Take The Big Guys

The availability of craft brews has shot up in the last couple of years. But their success goes against everything you learned in Econ 101: they’re more expensive to produce and distribute than the regular stuff.

By Brenda SalinasFebruary 12, 2015 11:16 am

The craft beer industry brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the Texan economy every year, and the number of people it employs is growing rapidly.

Charles Vallhonrat is the executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild.

“Craft beer is really blowing up nationwide and Texas is you know right there with that pace of growth if not outpacing it, says Vallhonrat, “If you look at our smaller members last year they grew by 44 percent in production volume so its tremendous, tremendous growth.

There are two reasons behind the rapid growth: supply and demand.

The History Of Brew

In 1993 the state legislature passed a law that let brewpubs start operate for the first time – but they couldn’t distribute.

“So you could have a local restaurant and you could have brewery there and you could bottle your beer or put it on keg and people will enjoy it but you couldn’t package it up until this past legislative session when suddenly the legislature relaxed that requirement,” says UT marketing professor Ben Benson. “For just the last less than two years microbreweries have been able to produce craft beers in brewpubs and then distribute them locally or across Texas.”

Beer Snobs Unite

So they’re easier to distribute. Beer snobs like Mark Jackson like them too.

“Yeah I pretty much avoid you know the large scale commercial beers if I can but if I’m going out on the town or if I’m going to the grocery store to pick up a six pack to enjoy a dinner yeah I never drink uh any of those sort of macro breweries,” says Jackson.

His friend Jeff Surles agrees. “A good rule of thumb when you go out to order a beer is anything that has a TV commercial your not going to order that,” he says.

These guys like their beer so much that they’re willing to shell out serious bucks for it.

“You know I’ll take into account the, having been somebody that’s spent the time, money, and energy brewing and I know how hard it can be and how expensive it can be,” says Jackson, “I support that and I’m willing to pay for that so price doesn’t really have too much of a factor.”

Ben Benson says that local love is what it takes for David to take on Goliath.

“We like local brands and the craft breweries are really taking advantage of this and they are seeing this as an opportunity to overcome the big hurdle that the national beer brands represent which is the economies scale that they enjoy,” says Benson.

David v. Goliath

But the big beer companies aren’t beating a retreat. They’re attacking craft breweries on two fronts.

“The large national brands will continue to make the sizeable investments they do in national advertising because that drives a core level of purchase that is sustainable for them,” says Benson, “But the national brands that are also practicing a strategy, if you can’t fight them join them.”

It’s not unusual for brand to start out as a craft brew and then expand until it’s acquired by a big-name beer company. They retain their local brand even though their production might be outsourced to a completely different state.

That’s why beer snob Mark Jackson says it’s important to really know what you’re drinking.

“We are here at a establishment that serves Texas Beers which I think is really neat and its really cool to support your local breweries,” says Jackson.

 Jackson adds these days there are so many Texas brews to try, he rarely drinks the same beer twice.

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