Craft drinking is going to rebuild America
How craft beer, wine, and spirits are creating a cultural movement that will shape who we are
Drinking is at the very heart of our civilization. In fact it was a corner stone of it. Other than food drinking is what kept us together and helped us get along with each other. As our cultures evolved so did the way we drank. Maybe it was because of our evolution, and maybe sometimes it influenced the advancement of cultures, but you cant deny that having a drink with your friends has always been there.
Today we live in a country that is divided. We have pockets that are thriving, and pockets that are struggling. Whole cities, towns, and states are on their knees but they refuse to go down without a fight. Still at their very core is a will to build, to survive, and thrive together. At the very heart of this are craft beers, craft wines, and craft spirits. Together they are creating a cultural movement that is helping these pockets reconnect with who they are, and where their place is.
Its not just about numbers
The economic impact of craft drinking is massive. According to the Brewers Association (via Forbes) the economic impact of craft breweries alone has jumped 20% to $68 billion in 2018. Not bad for a bunch of folks making stuff in their garage right? Except its not just about hobbyists, this is where people turn passion into business.
As fledgling businesses, small breweries are taking on the empty spaces left behind by businesses who turned their backs on their hometowns. Micro wineries are moving into spaces left behind by warehouses, small factories, and even auto-body repair shops. With the rise in their popularity so do they bring more jobs. The solo back yard distiller becomes a two, three, ten person team making small batches of rye whiskey or a gin that takes its flavors from local flora. New jobs at American breweries were almost 10,000 in 2016 and total jobs were close to 70,000. Oddly enough this is almost in contrast to everything you learned in economics 101. Innovation was supposed to help us make more products with less people. Instead we have more people making less product, and its been fantastic for economic growth!
The economic impact is clear. We are seeing revamped neighborhoods all over the country thanks to small, local breweries. Small wineries are driving California’s agriculture industry with practices that focus on quality, not quantity. Small farmers and producers are reaping the benefits from their more intensive labor. And we are all lapping it up.
Its about culture
Every time I talked about craft beer and craft wine to my friends at the global, multinational drinks businesses, they seem to brush off the craft movement. They see it as being too small, full of discombobulated businesses who could never rise up to really challenge them. Ok fine, maybe they never will. But they fail to understand the true impact of craft drinking. Its not about business or economics, its about culture!
Vice has a show on their network called Beerland that seemed to inadvertently tap into this. In a nutshell the founder of Golden Road Brewing Company, Meg Gill, goes around the country and finds micro brewers from different states. She puts them up against each other and the winner gets to have their beers brewed at her brewery. She’s trying to find great beer, but what she uncovers instead is how these craft brewers are repairing America’s bleeding heart. From Oregon to Alabama, from Orlando to Detroit, she meets brewers who are using beer to revive their communities, not just through jobs as brewers, but as symbols of pride, as icons of who they are.
Its not about who has the best beer, the best whiskey, or the best wine. That is often too subjective to calculate. You have to look deeper beyond the surface to see that these beers are reflective of who the people of a town are, or what the soul of a city is. You look a little bit deeper, as I do in my work with Vynl, to see that wineries are like galleries that capture moments in time that reflect on who we were. Our craft drink producers show what our communities are capable of. We see craft beers who help run down communities thrive through activism and sharing beer, we see wineries support artists local to them by having their art on the labels, we see all sorts of producers work hand in hand with local farmers and growers to get the ingredients that mean something, that show something about their tiny place on this earth.
When you start to see how these communities are being brought together, not through shiny marketing gimmicks, but by genuine actions, you start to see that the term “craft” means something very real. It means that these folks pour their heart into this drink, so that you can enjoy it for just a moment, but at the same time you will feel endeared to the community it serves and who served you.
So where do we go from here?
Dude, if you’ve gotten this far and still wandering what it is you can do all I can say is “fucking drink craft!”
Fucking drink craft!
- Damian Priday (yeh, I’m quoting myself!)
Today the term craft often gets bastardized by big companies looking to score a few points with discerning consumers. Gallo has tons of small wine brands, Goose Island is owned by AB InBev, and hey, Sam Adams, you guys have not been craft since the nineties! Craft beer, and increasingly craft wine and spirits, are seen as marketing gimmicks. But they are missing something key, something they cannot possibly recreate.
I’ve had the amazing pleasure of working with small wineries over the past year or two. Each one of them has a unique story and at the very center of it is how they got to where they are. At the core of every story is the reason for being, the reason that they do what they do, and the drive that keeps them going. Its not about fame and fortune, its about releasing something to the world that is built up inside them. Its an expression of who they are, driven by where they are in the world, and the forces around them. You cannot replicate that, no matter how hard you try to design a label that looks “craft.” Polish a turd as they say.
When you indulge in these drinks you are not just supporting the community, or helping to rebuild communities across America, but you are getting something truly special. It is a reflection of a community. Its a snapshot of a culture in a time and place. You taste a beer made by guys in Orlando that the people of Orlando want to drink. You drink wine from Mendocino County that tells a story of the people involved in the process. You’re helping to build that culture, but you’re also connecting to it in ways you never though you could, even if you are hundreds of miles away. As craft breweries and wineries continue to take hold, not only are they going to continue to help shape the landscape and economies of places across the country, but they are going to start bridging those communities together because as wine, beer, and spirit drinkers, it would appear that we just can’t get enough of the fucking stuff!
So go out there, look deeper, ask questions, and open your heart to America’s craft producers. Because this is not just about what we drink, this is about who we are.