Late last week I was having a chat with James Smith of Crafty Pint fame about the success of breweries in the Illawarra and South Coast.
He brought up something that I’d been thinking about for a while, the idea that many of us could have a warped perspective of the craft beer market.
If you’re even a little bit obsessed about craft beer, you probably read newspaper articles and magazines about it. You enjoy seeking out new beers and make sure you log them with Untappd when you drink them.
You most likely follow the beery exploits of people on Twitter and maybe even meet them in person at beer festivals. You know what a saison and a lambic are, and have drunk both. You may even make your own beer and quickly went beyond making Coopers lager from a can.
I know that sounds a lot like me. We surround ourselves with beer and beer-loving friends and associates.
We’ve got craft beer in our face all the time – if we’re not drinking it, we’re talking about it, writing about it, or just thinking about. Craft beer is so heavily on our radar and is so incredibly visible to us that, without thinking, we can assume it must be that way to plenty of other people.
But it isn’t really. I think it’s barely 5 per cent of the total beer market, or something like that.
As the Crafty James Smith put it – you just need to head down to your local bottle shop to see how little craft beer actually rates on most people’s radars.
The suburban bottlo is where plenty of people shop – so it’s also the main place where people are exposed to a range of beers. And the range in the bulk of suburban bottlos is pretty ordinary, which is a pretty good indication of what beers most people are buying.
Even if a bottle shop does offer a decent range of craft beers – such as a Dan Murphys – a few minutes’ of simple observation will tell you that most people avoid the crafties in favour of the mainstream stuff.
Every single time I’ve been to my local Dan’s I’ll see people walking out with a case of VB or Hahn SuperDry or some other mainstream beer over their shoulder. The beer section has Little Creatures, Mountain Goat, 4 Pines, Karl Strauss among other tasty beers but they make a beeline to the bland and tasteless stuff.
It’s moments like these that serve as a reality check. It shows that, no matter how it may appear when we’re on Twitter or surrounded by like-minded souls at a beer festival or a craft beer pub, we’re very much in the minority.
The craft beer industry still has a long road to travel. Though I’m sure it’ll get there eventually.