Given the exponential growth of brewing, I’ve given up trying to explore the entire vast landscape of beer, content to explore just the beery landscape around my home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even in this small little corner of the world, there’s simply too many breweries to follow and beers to drink that a single person attempting to do so would die of alcohol poisoning. Even if I could some how survive all those beers, there’s some evidence suggesting I could only really get to know about 150 of those brews. So when Allen Huerta asks “How do you see the landscape of beer?” for this month’s session, I’m afraid my view of the beer landscape is pretty blurry, even in my own little narrow view of the world.
What can I tell you about the overall beery landscape you haven’t heard already? Big corporate beer is getting into “craft” and more than a few “craft” breweries are getting pretty corporate. Never mind “craft” beer has gotten to the point where the term no longer has hardly any real meaning left. Corporate breweries are getting bigger through consolidation while tiny neighborhood breweries are finding creative ways to start out much smaller than those that came before it. All sizes of breweries are brewing beers of all description, unlike just three decades ago when it was mostly just a few giant breweries pumping out largely indistinguishable lagers. The 10-15% annual growth of “craft” beer seems unsustainable but that day of reckoning never seems to come. Predictions that someday the United States will be home to 10,000 breweries no longer seem ridiculous. Somehow, it doesn’t seem real. As you start drawing a rudimentary map of beer’s landscape, it flows and reorganizes into new formations.
What will I predict about the landscape of beer in 5, 10, or 20 years? All I can say is I expect it to be continuously transforming and largely unpredictable as it is today.