The only thing we have to fear is bad beer.

In today’s Beer Business Daily (which I quote with permission), there’s an excerpt from a note that industry consultant Bump Williams sent to his clients this morning. He discusses the fact that everybody seems to want to be in Craft these days and then explores the undercurrent of fear than many observers have that we are heading for a meltdown similar to what happened in the late 90s.

Well, a few things are different this time. For one thing, in the 90s craft boom, everybody was getting into craft except for, it seemed, the established beer industry. Distributors were luke-warm on craft if at all, on-premise was luke-warm and there were so few taps, grocery was cool to the idea of clogging shelf space, and c-stores ignored it completely. And the demand just wasn’t growing at the pace that it is today, nor was it as widespread across demos…Demand may slow at some point, but craft beer is here to stay. And it may be a good while before demand starts to wane….

The allure of craft, the coolness factor, the whiff of riches and the relatively low barriers to entry will inevitably attract the charlatans and the industry should be wary of this. Not every new craft brewer will be making decent beer. As much as we love the underdog, letting bad beer get to the shelves does a tremendous disservice to the rest of the industry which has worked so hard to create the Brand Craft. I would say that bad beer was the single greatest factor in collapsing the craft bubble of the 1990s.

I bold-faced that last sentence because I agree wholeheartedly. Perhaps the one saving factor that he leaves unmentioned is that new entrants to the business have come of age in a much stronger beer culture and that the quality of homebrewing over all (and that’s where most get started) is infinitely better today that it was a quarter century ago, so bad beer is exponentially less likely.

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