Why Industrial Brewing will never break fully into the Craft Brewing Market.

There’s an aspect of the fans of craft brewing that likely confuses the suits over at MillersCoors and InBev/Anheuser-Busch. In short, fans of micro-breweries have a different idea of brand loyalty.

For example, the folks at Anheuser-Busch think of brand loyalty this way: Every time you purchase a beer, you seek out, either knowingly or unknowingly, Anheuser-Busch products. In their world, they would love it if the only thought you gave to the purchase of beer is where you would purchase Budweiser, rather than if you would purchase Budweiser.

Fans of Micro-brews have a far different outlook on beer. Yes, they have their favorite breweries, a place that they will always give the benefit of the doubt when they produce a new brand or variety. But micro-brew fans have no problem in trying new and different brews from other places. For in their mind, there’s always the possibility that someone else may be making a better beer. For the micro-brew fan, the best beer out there is the one they haven’t tried yet.

There are likely several reasons for this attitude, but in my mind, there are two primary reasons why this anti-loyalty sentiment has occurred.

For one, the proliferation of microbreweries means that there’s many, many beers to choose from. In Seattle alone, there’s Elysian brewery, Elliot Bay Brewing, Hale’s Ales, Pyramid Alehouse, Big Al’s Brewing, Black Raven Brewing, Mac ‘n’ Jack’s, Pike Pub and Brewing, and several others. If I were to include those outside of King County, the list would be exponentially larger. Every one of these breweries have a different take on a type of beer, and fans seek out the type of beer they find most palatable to their palate.

Additionally, just because a micro-brewery may make a crackin’ IPA, doesn’t mean that they also make a bliss inducing porter. Rare is the brewery that hits all the marks on all of their beers. So a beer fan, who had an IPA made from Brewery A earlier in the week, is likely to migrate to a Stout from Brewery B later in the week.

What the preponderance of micro-breweries in any given locality has done is to foster a culture of both competition and inquisitiveness. Both of these characteristics are antithetical to companies that are more comfortable when they are the only game in town. Industrial brewers are more comfortable, or more specifically, the stock prices of the industrial brewers are more comfortable, when they are competing against only one or two companies, rather than dozens.