“The theme for tonight’s dinner is independence,” Brewers Assn CEO/prexy Bob Pease said kicking off dinner for journalists and media folks in NYC last night. “There are people out there that will tell you that independence doesn’t matter,” he said. “It does.” It was more than just theme, though. He and other speakers, including current BA board chairman and Allagash founder Rob Tod, repeatedly (and specifically) rebutted claims to the contrary from AB’s SAMCOM meeting earlier this wk. Even tho craft surpassed 24 mil bbls, Rob noted that “you could brew all of that volume in 2 or 3 breweries.” But instead, it comes from over 5,000, making craft “very, very inefficient” and therefore “extremely impactful” for a much larger number of communities, providing “tens of thousands of jobs.” That’s actually up to over 121K jobs directly at BA-defined craft breweries and brewpubs, BA’s craft beer program director Julia Herz chimed in. So again, particularly for those communities, “independence matters a lot,” Rob reiterated. Indeed, following busy period of craft acquisitions, “the independence pillar of [BA’s craft] definition has been rising in importance,” he said later.
Attraction of new craft consumers to small brewery taprooms – a point Bob’s made in past in support of taprooms and made again last night – highlighted by comments of a couple brewers at event. When Lynne Weaver set out to open Three Weavers Brewing in LA area in 2012/2013, she was initially “scared to death to even consider Inglewood,” a community that’s 51% Latino and 41% African American, she said. But then she remembered that community-building and providing a “gathering place” was impetus to open the biz. So Three Weavers has been open since 2013, now occupies 29K sq-ft, employs 16 and sold 7,000 bbls last yr, targeting 12K in 2017, according to company fact-sheet. Lynne’s been “excited to see the diversity” in both Three Weavers’ customer base and employee applicant pool. “It’s not just about the beer. It’s about the community,” she underscored.
Indeed, similar story up in the Bronx, NY, where Gun Hill Brewing opened up in 2014, co-founder Dave Lopez explained. When the company first opened in a largely Jamaican neighborhood, folks came in asking for “Guinness” or “Red Stripe.” When those folks insisted that Gun Hill did make those beers, brewers eventually realized that it was really just code for ‘dark beer’ or ‘light beer.’ Now the “majority of our customers are people we never thought would come in,” Dave said, calling for Gun Hill’s own beers by name. Currently the co’s doing its first-year sales goal in about 1.5 months, because founders “didn’t expect the local community” to support it at this level. “There are literally 5,000 of these stories,” Rob said. And surely more to come.