The founder of Sam Adams, C. James Koch, was announced a billionaire last week when Bloomberg Billionaire’s index new evaluation added him to the ranks. Koch’s ascension is an accomplishment not just of his hard work and brilliant vision behind the Boston Brewing Company, but also a pat on the shoulder of beer consumers all over America. Slowly but surely, drinkers have begun to follow their tastebuds away from traditional options towards more interesting beers.
Koch, completely unrelated to Republican manipulators Charles and David, steered Boston Brewing Co. into 1.3% of the total market share, the fourth largest market share in the industry. 80% of the industry is controlled by the duo of Anheuser-Busch Inbev (Bud, Natty, Corona, Stella, Becks, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Bass, Labatt, Michelob, St. Pauli Girl, Boddintons, Rolling Rock, Shocktop, O’Douls and many others) and MillerCoors (Magnum, Olde English, Fosters, Steel Reserve, Redds, Miller, Coors, Keystone, Peroni, Killians, Milwaukee’s Best, Molson, and more).
Despite going up against such huge competition, the craft beer market is making strides. In 2012, it captured 6.5% by volume of the market, but over 10% of the market in dollars, both representing the highest market shares for the craft brewing sphere. Not only is that an achievement in itself, but this is also happening at a time when the beer industry is losing sales to wine and spirits, meaning the losses are mostly afflicting the giants MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Consumer preferences are decidedly shifting.
Why celebrate this? Why am I presenting this information as a good thing?
I like good beer. Although I do drink Budweiser and Coors Light on occasion (I think those are tolerable beers), I advocate that we as consumers should try different beers, decide which ones we like, and support those companies with our money accordingly. Now is a wonderful time to be a beer drinker; a veritable golden age of American Brewing, with over 2,300 craft breweries as compared to 12 in 1980.
The craft revolution is putting pressure on the titans of the beer industry to adapt to changing consumer taste. InBev AB bought out Chicago based craft brewery Goose Island in 2011 for $38.8 million, a move that made longtime brewmaster Greg Hall step down.
There is legislation in progress right now to lower the excise tax on craft brew products, but it has no momentum with more imminent issues taking the focus. If this bill were to pass, though, it would help smaller companies turn a profit. More profit would then allow them to invest in growth and experiment with more recipes, giving us, the drinkers, the chance to buy more quantity and of a larger variety.
Do yourself a favor: go grab a variety 12-pack from Magic Hat, Sam Adams, or Kona. Figure out what you like, what you don’t like and why. And then go try some more.