Industry Insights: Beer Bait
Choosing a beer story to spend time with is getting as tough as choosing a beer, it seems. Fascination with beer isn’t new: Beer stories, often juicy, full of colorful characters and best served with a pint to match, have captured attention for generations because they often deliver. When I tell people I write about the beer industry, regardless of how much they enjoy drinking beer, their ears perk up; focus becomes a little more intense. They’re ready for a good story.
In a lot of ways, the craft segment has amplified beer. Big, bold flavors grab a drinker’s attention. Beer aisles burst with colors, names, characters. That goes for the stories, too. Brewers have long attracted local headlines, and now that the number of charismatic hometown brewing personalities has multiplied, so have the headlines.
The category also amplifies the degree of interest for some beer drinkers, thirsty for ever more information about their favorite beverage. Interest and attention grows into fandom, geekery, obsession. As with other superfans, the Internet is their natural home. But since media and marketing companies have monetized the tiniest taps of our fingertips, our interest in beer stories equates to dollars and cents in new ways.
Lots more people are making money off beer than just those who make or sell beer or the products needed to make or sell beer. In a lot of ways, that’s awesome. Their (vested) interest keeps amplifying the attention on beer that much more. It’s shone light on previously dark corners of the industry and the history of the beverage that make for better brewers and better beer. People with vast knowledge in areas outside beer infuse the industry with new energy and new possibilities.
Unavoidably, the amplification of beer has attracted folks looking for a little bit of amplification of themselves. You’ve no doubt seen the click bait-y headlines for listicles or fluff pieces promising another great beer story. Like me, you’ve probably clicked on quite a few, but found little substance. It’s not just media sources looking for clicks, though. Many wonder (or worry) about all the money being thrown at craft beer and craft breweries these days, usually those with painful memories of the not-too-distant past, when the money started talking louder than the beer.
The industry has also witnessed at least one group trying to harness young voters’ interest in beer to push its own political agenda. Interested in free markets and deregulation, Generation Opportunity (GenOpp) entered a few state beer policy debates via op-eds and millennial-targeted Free the Brews events, supporting small brewers with similar goals. But the group’s rhetoric goes too far for some small brewers who prefer to tell their own stories. As this proliferation of beer stories continues, I’m finding myself increasingly considering not just the content of these stories, what’s in the glasses, but who’s pouring them, too.
Christopher Shepard is a writer and editor for Beer Marketer’s Insights, spending most of his time walking the craft beat for Craft Brew News.