I am no stranger to harping on the potential calamity of the craft beer bubble. Whether we’re reaching maturation for the market or over-saturation, there’s no denying something big is happening when we’ve got about 2,400 breweries in the U.S. with another 1,250 in the works.
So what’s recently happened here in North Carolina piqued my interest.
Recently, a local brewery, Roth Brewing (no relation), was sold, changed its name and promised a reinvention of its purpose. Gizmo Brew Works was born. To me, at least, it came as something of a surprise.
Roth Brewing – of FoeHammer barleywine and Forgotten Hollow cinnamon porter fame – was started and run by homebrewers. Their passion led them to going pro, but perhaps they just weren’t cut out for the business side of things. Presumably, the new owners are a little more focused on business, but does that translate to a passionate connection to brewing?
I ask this after reading this (first) quote from Gizmo’s CEO in a recent article in the Raleigh News and Observer:
“They were not fans of IPAs,” [Bryan] Williams, 31, said in a recent interview. “We were the IPA fans.”
… and there’s the rub. At a time when the craft beer business is booming, a brewery that exclusively makes malt-forward beers may not have a place (Roth Brewing) but one that embraces the hop-head craze does (Gizmo).
Do those green hops simply mean green cash, too?
Depending on your belief in beer (and probably country of residence) the IPA may just be the “flagship style of the craft beer movement” and the “world’s most popular craft beer style.” In the least, we know IPAs are selling tremendously well as the fastest growing beer style for on-premise sales at restaurants and bars.
Which is why my radar went off when reading that quote from Gizmo’s CEO, who was echoed by another member of Gizmo:
“I wish we brewed more bitter beers,” added Matt Santelli, 33, another of the new owners.
I guess Gizmo’s client base believes the same thing? One last quote for irony’s sake: “I think the great thing about the brewing industry is there is no right way to do things.” … except apparently make malt-forward beers, while the “right way” to do things means making IPAs.
But I digress.
The story here is that IPAs sell well. Like, really well. Like, they’re 25.2 percent of the ENTIRE beer market in Oregon well. That’s any and every beer, not just craft.
As Stan Hieronymus points out:
In the four years between the end of 2007 and end of 2011 sales of IPA increased 260 percent and it became the No. 1 craft style. The next year sales increased 40 percent again. This gets harder to measure, because now we have Black IPAs, White IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Session IPAs, and Cider IPAs.
All this is to say that when I read about a brewery failing or succeeding based on the idea of brewing IPAs or bitter beers, I translate that to mean something about business and money and less about brewing and beer. These things are not mutually exclusive, but I believe at a time when the craft beer market is booming and there’s money to be made, playing devil’s advocate doesn’t hurt. For as much as someone may get into beer for the love of the product, it’s a money-making business, too.
So I wonder if it’s true: all that
glitters hop green is gold?
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac