A friend in the beer industry was telling me yesterday about a t-shirt that was recently spotted in Portland, Oregon. It read, “My favorite band hasn’t been formed yet…” (Not to be confused with the novel of a similar title, “My Favorite Band Does Not Exist,” by Robert Jeschonek.) I haven’t seen the t-shirt, and he hadn’t either, so who knows if it really exists. But it got us talking about how this could be said for beers as well, with today’s beer drinker always looking for the next hot limbic or porter or whatever other beer a bartender slides down in front of him or her.
This ‘give me what’s next’ mindset is both the wind behind the growth of craft brewers – a desire to taste a more complex, storied beer and engage in a highly sociable experience (i.e., let me tell you and 20 friends what new beer I tried last night) – and a branding challenge, especially for large craft brewers, as they attempt to keep their beers hip, relevant and discoverable. It’s why the new “Alchemy & Science” collaboration between Jim Koch and Alan Newman recently invested in Angel City Brewing Company, and it’s also why Goldman Sachs recommended a “sell” on Boston Beer Company in its January 5, 2012 analyst report (“SAM has struggled to increase velocity as consumers are faced with an increasing amount of choice by the proliferation of craft brands and styles”).
Even for consumers my age (53), it’s pretty hard not to engage in the experimentation and to not get excited by an entrepreneurial and authentic story about a new craft brewer.
For me it’s a fine balance between enjoying an old favorite I know and trust – and trying what’s new and compelling.
And to be honest, my favorite band was formed more than 30 years ago by four guys almost my age in Ireland, and I can’t imagine that any new band will knock them off that pedestal…although, have you heard the new Black Keys album?