The Brewers Association is worried that some of the small craft breweries opening around the country today aren’t producing quality beer.
Those stinkers can give the growing industry a black eye, association Director Paul Gatza said Wednesday during a news conference from the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver.
“It’s a big issue,” he said. “We hate to see this segment being brought down with people having bad experiences in their glass when they’re trying craft beer. They're maybe less likely to try something new in the future if they are having a bad experience from the last brewery they tried.”
With the craft beer industry continuing to explode in the U.S., it’s expected that there will be a few duds. But some established craft brewers are becoming irritated at new players that don’t take quality serious enough.
“A lot of people start in this industry as homebrewers who are told by their friends that they’re making good beer and you should go pro,” Gatza said. “A lot of them do and they try to do it on a shoestring. Try to do it on a small level and get bigger. They get their licenses. They make their first commercial beer and their friends say this is so great. But in truth what people who really know about beer are finding [is] that a lot of these newer brewers are not putting out quality that reflects well on the whole craft community. There are some off flavors at times.”
He said the Boulder, Colo.-based association is encouraging the new brewers to invest in their beer and the science behind it, including sending their beer out to be tested.
Nationwide, there are at least 1,898 breweries in the planning stage today, said Bart Watson, the association economist. By the end of last month, there also were 2,866 breweries in operation — up about 100 from just the end of last year.
Of course, there are great breweries adding to the cultural scene, as well, Gatza said. He cited Sun King in Indianapolis, Cigar City in Tampa and Surly in Minneapolis as examples.
“There’s a recognition that to remain vibrant and new and good and to challenge the rest of us, this should be an open community,” he said when asked about whether the association doesn’t want the growth to occur so fast.
Craft beer now controls 7.8 percent of the overall beer market. The association has put forth an aggressive goal of claiming 20 percent by 2020.
The country can support more breweries, said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the association.
“Ultimately the marketplace will decide,” she said. “New brewers bring innovation, excitement, competition and up the game constantly and raise the bar constantly as we see more getting online.”