Who Should Be The ‘Craft Beer Police’ as Industry Grows?

Sometimes, people get into the craft beer business for much broader ranges than they were 20 years ago. But things don’t change, said Highland Brewing president Leah Wong Ashburn.

“You are always looking for more capital to find ways to grow. Everyone is trying to do that,” she said in a recent interview with Brewer.

“What is the right feel for your company,” she asked when asked to discuss the situations breweries go through about finding that capital. “Everybody in the industry get letters weekly from capital investment folks, but it has to be the right fit. For others I think it would change culture. If someone is going to give you money, they aren’t going to just take a backseat. That’s not why they are in it and you have to be aware of that.”

On a similar note, finding the right fit and the right tone is difficult for some breweries that have been around for many years and have fought to get to where they are in reputation, one beer at a time.

In the 1990s, craft beer left a sour taste in many consumers’ mouths, which saw rushed decisions lead to a downfall in the industry that didn’t start to rebound for many years.

Now as the craft beer industry has flourished, we asked Ashburn who should be the ones to make sure that this next wave of craft is legit? Who steps up to the mic to make sure that quality and consistency is achieved?

Two key groups were pinned: veteran breweries and the consumers.

“It’s hard as a brewery owner. Some have a gift to be able to use language and be in the right time and place to tell younger breweries that sort of thing,” she said. “Someone at our brewery went to a new brewery to talk with them. They love what the brewery is doing, the space is amazing, but this beer has this problem and the owner said ‘I know and I don’t know how to fix it, can you help me?’ so that was the greatest way that conversation can go.

“If we don’t tell each other then that doesn’t help. I would love for all consumers to be well educated as well, but we have to train ourselves as well. Not everyone that works at a brewery is a beer geek. That education and passion for good beer can emanate from your brewery though as you train your staff, it can go from there.

“It’s a long hard game, but people do vote with dollars and an educated voter is always going to be helpful.”

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