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4 Things You Can Learn from the Craft Brewing Industry

| Wednesday May 30th, 2012 | 5 Comments

Everyone loves craft beer. Photo © 2012 Jason E. Kaplan

Craft brewing is an industry that is feel-good in more ways than one. Boasting more than $8.7 billion in total retail sales in 2011 from the nearly 2000 American craft breweries (the highest total since the 1880s, per the Brewers Association), the craft brewing industry proves that it is serious business. By creating a collaborative culture that emphasizes high quality products, the craft brewing world serves up powerful lessons.

Lesson 1: Find your passion

Placing an emphasis on the “craft” in craft beer creates a culture of excellence. People are drawn to the craft beer world by their dreams, passion, and love of good beer. And the fact that it’s really fun. Currently the craft beer industry provides an estimated 103,585 US jobs.

While operating a craft brewery can be highly profitable, it’s the love of high quality products that draws more and more people into this industry. “I’ve developed a passion for this industry. It has become a part of me,” says Mike Reis, Beer Program Co-Director and Cicerone at Monk’s Kettle. Reis’ connection to craft beer has evolved over time – starting as an avid fan he has developed into a respected expert in the field.

Lesson 2: Collaborate with others in your field

With so many new breweries entering the scene, people in the industry are finding that there is real value in helping their colleagues. As the industry continues its rapid growth, there is a general feeling that it is less about competing, and more about creating high quality products. “You really are only competing with yourself. When it comes down to it, its your ability to connect with customers [that determine a brewery's success],” Jesse Friedman, Co-Founder of Almanac Brewing said.

Friends Dave Chichura of Oskar Blues with Dave Colt and Clay Robinson from Sun King Brewing

It’s no surprise that friendships form easily in this community, which has given rise to a hot trend – collaboration beers, a process which allows brewers from different breweries to work together to create beers outside their typical styles. One recent example is CHAKA, a collaboration brew created by long-time friends Dave Chichura of Oskar Blues Brewery and Clay Robinson and Dave Colt from Sun King Brewery.

Lesson 3: Give back to your community

A brewery plays an important role in its community and local economy. Craft brewers not only create great beers for people to enjoy, most also give back to their local communities. Brooklyn Brewery serves as a demonstration of great community stewardship. Its mission focuses on brewing flavorful beers and enriching the communities that enjoy them.

Breweries also work as partners in making their communities better. For instance, several Kansas City businesses formed a partnership, including Boulevard Brewing, to close the culinary experience loop. By working together they are able to address several challenges at once, including waste removal, and production/ sourcing of materials.

Lesson 4: Use resources efficiently

Craft brewing, at its core, is a manufacturing industry, which creates efficiency opportunities for water conservation, energy use, packaging, and transportation. Many craft breweries capitalize on these opportunities to serve as their community’s environmental superstars. They may cite different motivations, but it is clear by the number of breweries that incorporate sustainability into their products and operations that this is no passing fad.

“Breweries have a lot of reliance on the earth for what they are producing, and this can impact the way they view their responsibility to the planet,” says Reis. Additionally, a craft brewery is a business, and, as with many businesses, compelling financial reasons create a clear case for incorporating sustainability.

High profile sustainability initiatives by players like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium Brewing and Alaskan Brewing serve as great examples to other businesses, both inside and outside the brewing world.

Good beer is good business

“We are all in this together. There is a real sense that one brewery’s success is good for the whole community. That is going to put more craft beer in front of more people,” Friedman said. Which is something everyone who has enjoyed a tasty craft brew can agree with.

[image credit: Eddie Clark Media]

Kate Drane is a proven community builder experienced in developing viable strategy and marketing plans. An energetic self-starter, her specialties include market analysis, partnership building, event planning, and social media strategy. She is the co-founder of the The Can Van, the first ever mobile beer canning service for craft breweries. You can follow her on Twitter


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  • http://twitter.com/CraftBeerCoach Craft Beer Coach

    Great article. As a life skills coach, I too am drawn to the craft beer industry because of its wealth of positive attributes. Passion, motivation, self-sacrifice for a dream, non-judgmental thinking, innovation…you name it. These are traits and skills every individual and every industry should aspire to improve upon or gain. I am capturing the essence and energy behind the craft beer industry to empower others to do the same in their own lives. 

  • Matthewjsimons

    I like beer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rsbryant Rodney Bryant

    As someone who home-brews beer I really appreciate the passion these people have for their products. I have to say it’s a labor of love. At one point I dreamt of opening a brewery, but I soon realize the capital involved with starting one up and came to the conclusion it will likely remain just a dream.

  • Energy Carol

    GEAUX Brewing in Kirkland/Redmond Washington is dialing in on some great beers.  Hopefully some day it can be a full time, money making craft for my son!

  • Guest

    Sam Adams/Boston Beer Company is extremely involved in the community.  Their program Brewing the American Dream provides
    loans and industry-specific coaching, mentoring, and educational resources to
    business owners who find it difficult to access the capital and guidance needed
    to sustain and grow their businesses.