When we were making plans for this themed issue focused on the people of the craft beer business, we came to an interesting conclusion.
It would be too easy turn this into a celebrity-watcher issue, especially given all the “rock stars” now in our craft brewing industry. Some are so popular they get mobbed at festivals. But, unlike their Hollywood counterparts, there’s not much scandal surrounding our luminaries: they’re just pretty good at getting us great beer.
Furthermore, it would also be too easy for us to claim, like many industries, that “we are a people business” and gloss over the whole idea. After all, most industries require suppliers, wholesalers, retailers and customers—i.e., people. Public relations wizzes love to say their company is in the people business. All true, very true.
Yet the beer industry can, without arrogance, claim to truly be the People Industry for three very simple reasons: camaraderie, community and creativity. I have written often about the first two. There is something about pints of beer that bring people together and, when together, they tend to stay together and act together. Offering to buy someone a beer begins, enhances and extends a relationship.
However, the third leg of the stool, creativity, gets short shrift compared to the relationship elements. In this issue we celebrate the creativity of the people business.
Not too long ago, the American beer business was monolithic. The beers had similar profiles. The companies produced and went to market in a similar format. The focus was on efficiencies, economies of scale, moving boxes and keeping prices down. Creativity rarely strayed beyond the marketing department.
With the 1970s, all of that started falling apart. Enter the creativity of the people business. Just look at the shelves of a well-stocked beer store, crowded with the depth and variety of the brewers’ art.
What the craft brewing community has spawned is a craft culture around craft beer. Amazing numbers of people have stepped up, expanding the dimensions of the craft brewing industry into an elaborate, complex and largely decentralized craft culture, all founded on creativity around craft beer.
They simply take their passion for craft beer and marry it with an activity equally as interesting, transforming it into something creative and special. From beer books to beer dinners, from beer websites to beer travel, from beer reviews to beer gadgets, not a day goes by when we don’t see something innovative, exciting and creative coming from a beer lover.
Where once beer creativity was left to advertising slogans and point of sale, we have now entered the age when creativity joins camaraderie and community as the foundations of our own craft beer culture.
This editorial originally ran in the January 2011 Vol. 31., No. 6 issue.