The Great American Beer Festival and events throughout the Denver area are not the only beer events at the end of September. The National Beer Wholesalers Association held their annual convention at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on September 22-24. Jim Koch, chair of the Boston Beer Company, spoke on the main stage of the convention and presented many gems of information and many ideas for attendees to think about. His speech was fair and presented both sides of the coin on many issues, such as how the three-tier system is a efficient and effective means of accessing the market, but also how the three-tier system’s participants all benefit from the opportunities created when a small brewer can escape from a bad wholesaler relationship for fair market value.
One interesting data set Jim looked at is what has happened to the beer industry over the last 30 years in a broad brush of the types of beer sold. Jim has presented this data set before, but it rings truer for craft brewers today more than ever. Regular domestic beer has gone from 99 % of the U.S. market 30 years ago to 31 % today. Light beer has gone from 0 % to 50 %. “Better” beer, essentially a loose term to represent higher priced crafts and imports, has gone from 0 % to 19 % over the same 30-year period. I think we have all recognized the polarization toward lighter and “better” beers. The middle continues to get squeezed out.
Jim stated his belief that “better” beer will eventually claim 35 % of the U.S. market. When? To great laughter, Jim stated that one thing he “learned from economists is to give them a number or give them a date, but don’t give them both.”
More on Jim’s speech, the Draught Beer Quality Manual presentation, a discussion about ignition interlocks at the convention and the Craft Brewers Pavilion in the trade show will follow in this space or the next issue of The New Brewer.