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Craft beer's rapid growth forcing macrobreweries to take notice


May 16, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

One thing I have found humorous recently was Budweiser's new marketing campaign.

One recent television advertisement encourages drinkers to enter the date their beer was made into their phone or web browser to "get to know who brewed your beer." Another boasts the fact that Budweiser has 10 brewing facilities spread across the United States and touts itself as "America's largest local brewery."

To me, this indicates a major shift in the landscape of how beer is viewed and enjoyed in America.

For years, large corporations like Anheuser Busch, the makers of Budweiser, have relied upon huge corporate sponsorships with sports leagues, restaurant chains and national ad campaigns to push their product.

In the meantime, during the past two decades or so, small brewery after small brewery has popped up, the most successful ones utilizing low-budget marketing tactics including social media and actual face-to-face interaction with those involved in the beer making process through happenings like tastings at local venues and larger events, like the upcoming American Craft Beer Fest in Boston.

Through these methods that actively engaged their target audiences, the small brewers started a trend in which consumers wanted to become educated on how and where their beer was made and who it was that was making it.

Suddenly, with a more educated drinker, the status quo was no longer good enough. Now understanding the product in a way they hadn't before played a major role for the public's increased demand in higher quality beer made locally with better ingredients, which, in turn, has had an effect on the macrobreweries' bottom line.

According to the Brewer's Association, business is booming for the craft beer industry. The number of craft breweries soared from 1,977 in 2011 to 2,347 in 2012, employing 108,400 people, meaning nearly 3,000 jobs were created last year. The recent boom has yielded a 42 percent increase in microbreweries since 2010 and a 10 percent increase in regional craft breweries.

What does this all mean in terms of dollars? Well, craft brewers produced more than 13.5 million barrels of beer in 2012, an increase of two million from 2011, or 15 percent. For the first time ever, craft beer made up a double-digit percentage share of the $99 billion beer market. Small breweries took in $10.2 billion in 2012 after taking in $8.7 billion the year before.

This, no doubt, has the macros attention and in turn, has prompted them to attempt to determine how they can humanize what has been a highly productive, but, in reality, very unappealing machine.

Among the local breweries that have been involved in the recent growth are Brimfield's Tree House Brewing and Westfield River Brewing, both of which opened in 2012, and Northampton's Brewmaster Jack, which was founded in 2011.

They will join Element Brewing and Lefty's, who have been rapidly growing in popularity since their humble beginnings in 2009 and 2010, respectively, at a terrific event to wrap up American Craft Beer Week, which has been going on all week.

On May 19 from noon to 5 p.m., The Beer Shop, located at 33 Harness Ave. in East Longmeadow, will be hosting a free beer party, featuring samples from these five local brewers, letting folks really get to know who brews their beer.

If you're in the area, I'd encourage you to stop by, try some beer and talk brewing with the people who know it best and support growing local businesses.

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For those who have not made it up to McLadden's in Northampton yet, I would highly recommend you do sooner rather than later.

Located at the site of the former Pleasant Street Theater, the bar, which is owned by the same company that runs two other locations in West Hartford, Conn., and Hampden, is centrally located in an area that probably boasts the most craft beer taps in Western Massachusetts.

Competing with the Dirty Truth and Hinge, both of which have done well with large collections of beers from around the country and the world, McLadden's certainly gives them a run for their money with 105 taps, including 92 rotating offerings from noted breweries including Stone, Founders, Rogue, Allagash, Peak Organic and Southern Tier.

It also has a terrific atmosphere and an extremely knowledgeable staff.

The menu is limited, but the portions are hearty and the food is quite tasty.

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There's exciting news for fans of Amherst Brewing Company (ABC).

ABC recently announced that they have signed a contract with Williams Distributing. The agreement means distribution of some terrific locally made beer will be greatly expanded.

As a fan of several of their beers, I can't help but believe having their product more readily available to consumers throughout the Pioneer Valley is a huge win for the area.

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