Beer Industry on the Brink

The DrinksReform.org team was busy last week attending and covering the Brewers Association's annual Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC. In addition to live-tweeting various seminars from the conference, our own Jarrett Dieterle published the following dispatch recapping the conference and the current state of the beer industry:

“You’re probably going to get fat.” These were some of the many words of warning handed out by Liquid Mechanics CEO Davin Helden during his talk on what it takes to start a craft brewery in the United States today. Other nuggets included: “My first suggestion is to hire a lawyer,” and “you will drain your savings accounts and 401(k)s” despite working 70 hours a week.

Helden — who proudly announced that he was finally off Medicaid now that his brewery had grown to a sufficient size such that he could afford health insurance — wasn’t the only person sounding a note of caution at this year’s Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference. Numerous panel speakers cited the possibility that America’s craft-beer market is oversaturated. The Brewers Association’s chief economist, Bart Watson, told brewery owners to get used to slower growth trends, even though craft beer continues to expand its share of the beer market.

With the number of breweries in the United States now topping 5,000, competition in the beer market has grown fierce. Brewers increasingly look for any advantage or leg-up they can find to distinguish themselves from the crowd. From a policy perspective, this makes rational and market-friendly beer laws more important than ever, since the more time brewers spend trying to comply with frustrating laws and regulations, the less time they have to brew and to grow their brands...

Read the whole thing here: http://www.rstreet.org/op-ed/beer-industry-on-the-brink/