Facebook. Microsoft. Apple. Companies started with next to nothing, held up in some garage or dorm room; their unlimited growth existing only as an untapped and elusive dream yet each achieving greatness through the enthusiasm, vision and, dedication of their creators. We’ve all heard of those stories. Success in the tech industry is nothing new. In today’s market, there are a handful of startups every day that will become million-dollar success stories with quick rises and easy sell offs. It can be hard to admit, but tech just isn’t as sexy or as intriguing as it used to be. It’s become a mainstream commercialized entity unto itself. So where do you turn if you’re a regular joe/jane thirsty for a success story with all the romance of the American dream and the cool swagger technology once had? Craft beers. A billion dollar industry making huge gains even in the worst of markets. Surprised? So was the adult beverage industry. Go ahead and pull up a chair. Let’s crack open a story of hard working Americans creating their own brand of drinkable art.
You simply cannot talk craft beer without bringing up the name “Ballast Point”. Taking its name from a landmark in San Diego Bay, this legendary brewery was started by Jack White and his roommate Pete A’Heam. When brews in their UCLA located apartment became too difficult, the pair found a space and set up shop in the back room of a beer supply store. The year was 1996, and they were about to pioneer one of the most successful craft beer companies in the world.
From 1996 to 2015, the Ballast Point Company grew and expanded. What started as just a couple home brewed beers, quickly became an impressive portfolio of over twenty beers, and a little over a dozen spirits. Winning contests and awards quickly became common practice, and on November 15th, 2015 history was made. Constellation Brands, a Fortune 500 company and largest beer import business in the United States, announced its intent to purchase Ballast Point for the staggering sum of one billion dollars.
From humble beginnings, to rock star craft beer company, Ballast point is a success story reminiscent of time tested American capitalism, ingenuity, and grit. More importantly however, its triumph sent a signal to the big name multinational beer companies; “we’re crafting beers, and a narrative.” In just last year alone, craft beers saw a 6% rise in volume and wedged out about 12% of total market share. These numbers are only increasing.
So we know they’re successful, but what makes craft beer so damn good?
To start, the craft beer market has thousands of varieties, flavors, makes, types, brands and designs. They take an edge over most major name brands like Miller or Budweiser who have been producing the same drink in the same basic packaging for years. Craft beer companies often pull out all the stops to make their product look great and taste different. For example, you’ll never see Budweiser release a sour raspberry ale, but Martin House companies “True Love” delivers a refreshing and bold raspberry sour option for the more adventurous drinkers. Craft beer is an art. The taprooms are museums and Millennials are driving the future towards a more audacious and diverse market.
But what does this mean for the industry?
In 2017 the Brewers Association (BA) released their annual list of top fifty craft and overall brewing companies in the United States. Of the top fifty overall companies, forty were craft. This result, while no longer unexpected, should absolutely be respected. In a 2017 interview, Bart Watson, chief economist for the BA, stated that, “With such a broad range of brewers in today’s beer landscape, the leading small and independent producers have helped build the craft brewing industry to what it is today.”
Watson is dead-on, and with fantastic companies like D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc. , Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Boston Beer Co, all landing in the top 10 of overall brewers nationwide, it’s hard to argue with the facts. Craft beers are the next best thing and show no signs of slowing down.
Why does this matter to us though?
Simple. These are young, dedicated, hardworking companies, sticking it to the man. The man being the established national beer behemoths. Chiseling their own nook into the economic rock of the new millennia, the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of young and eager Americans should be applauded. So next time you’re at a bar, instead of ordering that cheap light beer distributed by the corporate machine, try a craft IPA or a small town blonde. Maybe even take a trip to a nearby brewery. Most importantly however, appreciate what went into the drink you have in your hand, and remember that its makers may have started with absolutely nothing but a hope and dream.