When Is a Small Craft Brewery No Longer "Craft" Enough?

The goal of any small business is to grow into a bigger business. But when your whole image is based on being small and crafty, this can pose a quite a pickle. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Sam Adams were small craft breweries once, but are they still? What about increasingly popular breweries like New Belgium, Dogfish Head, and Rogue?

According to a recent report on NPR, the solution for some of these breweries is to build new breweries in other locations across the country. New Belgium and Sierra Nevada are both building breweries in North Carolina, for instance. This expansion allows the breweries to continue crafting small-batch beers (or at least "small" as compared to mass-produced Bud and Miller) while still meeting the demand in markets far from their main breweries.

But this kind of solution poses other problems. The NPR report points out that water is a big factor in the flavor and character of a craft beer, so will these expansion breweries chemically treat their North Carolina water to duplicate the water sources around which their beers were originally crafted? Does this start to veer away from the idea of a locally-produced craft beer? As long as the quality of the beer remains consistent, does it really matter?

These are some big questions, and new ones for many craft breweries who have merely been scraping by up until now. The craft beer boom in the past ten years has created the kind of demand — and potential profits — that Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada and Jim Koch of Sam Adams could only dream of back in the 80's. It will be interesting to see how these craft breweries deal with their newfound popularity and corresponding demand.

Is the only choice to stay small and crafty, or is it possible to go big and crafty, too? What do you think?

Read the Article: To Grow a Craft Beer Business, the Secret's in the Water by Bill Chappell

Related: Can Craft Beer Save the Economy?

(Image: Emma Christensen)

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