On the business side of craft beer, breweries face the challenging reality of competing directly against other breweries as well as other alcoholic beverages. Consumers typically enjoy a wide range of alcohol, including beer, wine, hard seltzers, and spirits. Among these, spirits are often seen as the craft beer industry’s biggest threat.
Why Are Spirits a Threat?
Different individuals tend to consume different types of alcohol for various reasons. While there may not always be a direct link between beer and spirits, similarities can be observed when examining the average craft beer drinker.
For instance, craft beer enthusiasts seek higher quality, more pronounced flavors, and variety in their drinks. These attributes are also offered by spirits. However, what makes spirits even more appealing is the hobby and collection aspect associated with them.
Craft beer drinkers are often eager to try the latest beers and trending styles. They crave new and interesting flavors. Many people even collect and save certain beers for special occasions. Craft beer fans become skilled at discerning and appreciating different flavor profiles, allowing them to compare various beers.
This is strikingly similar to the world of spirits, particularly whiskey.
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Can Craft Beer and Spirits Coexist?
Brewers and distillers follow similar processes and adhere to strict methodologies in order to produce high-quality products. This shared passion enables them to understand and appreciate each other’s crafts.
For many years, brewers have been utilizing spirits barrels for aging their beer. Stout beers, especially those aged in whiskey barrels (particularly bourbon barrels), are the most common example. Occasionally, you may encounter a truly unique beer that was aged in barrels previously holding tequila, rum, brandy, and so on.
What has often been overlooked is knowledge of the specific brand of alcohol that used to occupy these barrels. This is frequently intentional or mandated by the source of the barrels. However, I believe this presents a tremendous opportunity to bridge these two worlds together.
By knowing which barrels were used, consumers can actively seek out those distinct flavor characteristics imparted by the spirits. They can even go as far as purchasing a bottle of the corresponding liquor and enjoy them side by side.
This experience can be enhanced when breweries and distilleries collaborate closely.
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Can Craft Beer and Spirits Go Beyond Friendship?
While it is evident that different alcoholic beverages compete with each other (such as hard seltzer, beer, wine, and spirits), the truth is that many companies are involved in producing multiple types of these products. This is particularly evident in the beer industry, where many breweries have recently started manufacturing hard seltzers. There is also a growing trend towards spirits.
Brewing beer and distilling spirits are akin to being siblings. Numerous breweries already double as distilleries, and there will likely be many more in the future.
For many, incorporating spirits into their portfolio is a smart business move that diversifies their brand. This provides protection if one sector flourishes while another is unstable. It is a way to future-proof their company while catering to their existing loyal fan base with high-quality products.
It is highly likely that we will see many more breweries venturing into the production of spirits. Alongside hard seltzers, this expansion aligns well with their business models and can help ensure the longevity of their companies.