What Can the Craft Brewing Industry Do Better?

It depends on who is counting, but the number of craft breweries in the United States is in the ballpark of 7,000 by now. Every one of those has a slightly different business plan, growth strategy and idea of how to succeed.

Everyone also has an idea on what this relatively small industry can do better at, we narrowed it down to two ideas and explored them with professionals from across the country.


Matt ‘Truck’ Thrall of Left Hand brought up a good point recently on how confused the general consumer can be. Sure, each brewery has its die-hard fans, but connecting with the common drinker means fighting an uphill battle with “faux-craft” brands as well.

“I want the consumer to know there is more riding on the line than solely, ​’​Does the beer taste good or not?​’ ” he said.​ ​”​The amount of purposefully marketed misinformation and misrepresentation out there is solely to confuse the consumer and it’s sad. ​… I can only hope the consumer, both current and new, realizes how the revolution came about, why it’s important to support independent brewers, and don’t buy into the schemes set up by corporate brewers and capital investment firms​.

Sarah Green walks inside the brewhouse on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, at SweetWater Brewing Company in Atlanta, Ga. (AJ Reynolds for The Brewer Magazine)

“The more people know about beer, about how it’s made, about all the wonderful styles and techniques that continue to evolve, the more they will enjoy our beers and want to share them with their friends,” added Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann.

And education and sharing of knowledge within the industry ​is great, notes Chris Baker of Mother Earth Brew Co. but it can always improve.

The craft beer community is great at communication, if you have a problem typically you can find someone with an answer. But is it the right answer?” he asked. “I wish there were more brewer education courses available through traditional university programs instead of specialized programs.

“I feel the cost of specialized programs is too great for most brewers so they aren’t taken advantage of.”

In Baker’s opinion, brewers with science degrees are more adept to brewery operation and development but chase money into other industries because brewers are traditionally paid less.

“The solution is to diversify university programs by creating focus on real life application while paying employees what they are worth based on their level of education,” he said.


One of the mottos for Two Brothers is that they brew with a purpose,” said co-founder Jason Ebel.

“We love to experiment and try new things, but with each beer we brew, we put in the time to make sure each product is something we can really be proud of,” he pointed out. “I think sometimes in this business, breweries are in a rush to release as many new products as they can.

“But if you don’t put time and thought into it, quality and flavor is often sacrificed.”

SweetWater Brewmaster Mark Medlin agreed, saying breweries should all be doing their part to keep the quality of craft beer high.

“We don’t want consumers to gravitate away from craft because of a few bad experiences with old beer,” he said.

That means investing in quality assurance and control.

“I think the biggest challenge in craft beer is achieving the holy trinity of production — quality, consistency, and stability,” said Surly Head Brewer Ben Smith. “Having a good quality assurance program in place will help get you there. If you don’t have a product that stands up and stands out in today’s saturated market you will not have long-term success.”

Fred Rizzo, the Director of Brewing Operations for Avery said image is great, quality is better.

“I would love to see more breweries — mostly new ones — focusing themselves as first-class beer producers rather than a brewery who aligns with a hip image and beer second,” he said.

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