Can Craft Beer Save America's Economy?

Salon

History tells us that, broadly speaking, Americans generally prioritize low price over everything else. Or, as Salon writes, "discounts and quantity over premium prices and quality." But in the battle between macrobrews and craftbrews, that might be about to change.

A terrific article this week by David Sirota for Salon examines the rise of craft brews and the (possible) sea change they represent. In 2011 the overall beer market declined substantially, while the craft brewing industry increased its year-to-year sales by 15 percent. It now accounts for 5.7 percent (of the total beer market) by volume and 9.1 percent by dollars. In other words, "craft brewers are generating a much larger share of beer revenue than they are contributing to the overall volume of beer in America."

Sirota notes that in other major low-price-low-quality vs. high-price-higher-quality battles, the trend has been for major establishments to try and mimic the smaller upstarts (i.e. Microsoft copying Apple). But the macrobrew industry seems to be doing the opposite, and intensifying their old low-price/low-quality/high-volume formula.

In the competition for the future of drinking, both sides are obviously trying to exploit their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. The massive macrobrewing corporations are trying to take advantage of their size and corresponding ability to produce volume -- all while playing down the fact that their beers have little local character or quality. The craft brewing industry, composed mostly of independent small and medium-size businesses, know they can't compete in a volume game, and so they are trying to promote quality and diversity. It's a straightforward fight -- one that may seem only interesting to drinkers, but one that truly transcends the inebriation industry. It underscores both consumer shifts and questions about what kind of economy we want in the future.

Read the whole article and then come back and tell us what you think!

Read More: Can Beer Save America? at Salon

(Image: Emma Christensen)