Bubble seems to be the buzz word regarding the beer industry now. With big buy-outs; “craft” beer becoming a mainstream product and wider availability a sort of Apocalypticism is forming. The truth is nobody really knows what will happen if and when the craft beer “bubble” gets too big and unsustainable.
Option 1: Nothing happens
If craft beer productions expands in line with more tap availability and more shelf space (including Tesco!) then why would anything change. More bars and independent shops are opening, restaurants are providing bigger beer ranges and supermarkets are creating more shelf space. You’re not going to walk into Tesco tomorrow and it looks like Beermoth have set up shop in the beer aisle. If an independent craft beer shop still trying to sell cans of Dead Pony Club at a profit then they need to take another look at the business plan. If nothing happens: Amazing beer will remain a costly luxury; good beer stays reasonably priced and bad beer stays reasonably cheap. The sun still comes up tomorrow morning.
Option 2: Boom!
If you think of the beer industry as the physical bubble; when the bubble pops you are left with nothing. Its all gone. This is unlikely. We aren’t all going to end up drinking Stella Artois in an All Bar One.
Option 3: Pop!
Possibly the most likely option. Consider the beer industry is the air within the bubble. Lots of atoms surrounding each other. Protecting each other. I’m not saying breweries are living off each other’s “success” but as craft is currently marketed as a superior product; to the ill-informed eye a label stating the beer is “craft” that the beer is good. When the bubble bursts all the atoms go their separate ways. No more protection. No more piggybacking. No more clique. The product has to sell on it’s own merit. If the product isn’t good enough, the marketing isn’t working and if there is no passion in the product, it will fall behind. Beer is business and as if it is to be sold as a high quality, luxury item it has to be presented as such and a passion and connection to the product is paramount to this. When the housing bubble burst in 2008 house prices in Chorlton, South Manchester barely faltered as it was such a desirable area to live people would sacrifice their first-born in order to get a house there.
Unfortunately some breweries will fail, some breweries will just give up as tap and shelf space is swallowed up and some will decide it’s time to take it easy and move on (this happened just yesterday with Quantum Brewery). If you want your favourite brewery to survive if the burst happens then go to your local shop or chosen online retailer and pay a reasonable price for your beer; if you want a cheap hop fix then go to a supermarket and buy a bottle of Punk IPA.
I don’t claim to be an economist and you can read more about the developments in the sales of craft beer in supermarkets from the likes of Total Ales, Brew Geekery and Beer Compurgation but for the majority of us I don’t think our drinking habits are going to change.