From the Field — 01 May 2012

Coming out of college, I’ll admit I knew almost nothing of craft beer. I might be able to pick an IPA out of a sampler tray or tell the difference between a domestic and an import. Double IPA, what’s that? Imperial stout, I guess a beer made for royalty? My knowledge of beer consisted of TV advertisements and those that came in packs of thirty. That all changed when I was brought on board at Hunterdon and I’m glad it did. It opened a new world to me, full of dynamic flavors and styles and commenced my desire to learn as much as I could about the industry.

When I would hang out or talk with my friends, I wanted to share with them my newfound obsession. Perhaps a little naïve of me, but I assumed that I was the only one who was aware of craft beer and that my friends needed to be converted. What I found out though, is that I wasn’t alone. Not only were my friends drinking craft beer, but they were talking about the different styles they’ve had and making comparisons and judgments in tastes and aromas. Surely I was happy to witness this, but it did spark my curiosity as to why this was.

As I began to put my thoughts together and wrap my head around this, I noticed an update on Facebook from a brewery that I was following. Within minutes, it already had 15 “likes” and several comments. Social media has changed the way that many younger adults obtain information and craft breweries have certainly followed suit. Instead of spending millions of dollars on TV or other advertisements, craft breweries can now utilize social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to reach their audience. It reaches at a more personal level to consumers and appeals to younger generations, whom have started new trends of supporting local businesses. Bars and restaurants have also been aware of these shifts and have evolved into trendier hang out spots. Combine this with a craft beer selection and it’s no wonder why crowds flock to them.

Minutes pass and I receive an email from a friend stating that he just bottled his first batch of beer and wants me to come and taste it. He is now the fourth or fifth person I know that has ventured into home brewing. With increases in home brew shops, it’s easy to see how this hobby can be addicting. It’s relatively cheap and accessible, and with new online beer communities catering to home brewing or general beer talk, it’s very enticing. This in turn creates a craft beer drinker, always on the hunt for different styles the urge to expand palates. The majority of the beers these home brewers drink undoubtedly come from craft breweries, which are still considered very young in the beer industry. It’s an easy parallel to make; a home brewer making his first batch of beer very similar to the way these craft breweries got their start. Again, it creates a more personal relationship fueled by respect and admiration.

It’s also pretty obvious to notice how end consumers’ tastes and preferences have changed over time. With more variety in the beer market, patrons are becoming less brand loyal and looking for more choices to satisfy their thirst. Changes in other industries have also fueled this as well, such as the coffee market where new beans and alternative blends have shifted partialities. Instead of drinking the same boring beers over and over again, customers want more flavor and unique recipes that is found in craft beers.

In closing, I am very excited at how social media has evolved craft beer and sit in anticipation of what the future will hold. I advise you to try and reach out to those who have not experienced the bliss that we know when a flavorful beer touches our lips. While I haven’t been able to convert some of my friends and family members (perhaps a certain uncle that I will not mention), I still firmly believe that there is a craft beer out there for everyone. And who knows, perhaps you’ll go through the same realization that I witnessed and have more friends that enjoy drinking higher caliber beers.

Cheers!

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ashley.stima@gmail.com

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