Tony's back-with a new knee and a new company (great new wines, too!)
In beer, bubbles = good. Nobody wants stale, flat beer. But right now, the craft beer scene might be facing a different kind of bubble: a saturated market that’s beginning to seem ripe for a shakeout. According to a recent Boston magazine article, in 2012 there were 47 breweries in Massachusetts. Today, there are 197, with at least 22 more scheduled to open before the end of the year. And that’s just Massachusetts. Many other states are experiencing the same boom; the collective effect is that we are awash in beer.
Don’t get me wrong- at Pour Richard’s, we LOVE a great craft brew. Other than Narragansett, it’s all we sell. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to carry so many great local brews. There are weeks when we feel like the proverbial kid in a candy store: Night Shift, Abandoned Building, 14th Star, Brewmaster Jack, Exhibit A, Devil’s Purse, Lost Nation, Singlecut-our shelves are stuffed with delicious beers of every possible style.
But lately, for every killer new local brew presented to us, I see two that are…meh. I am beginning to worry about this proliferation of breweries. We celebrate small and love carrying hyper-local, but above all else, the beer absolutely has to be GOOD. When there’s such a huge field to choose from, we-and our customers- can afford to very picky. What’s going to happen to the also-rans? Because a brewery start-up is a capital-intensive business, and although VC’s are being very generous with funding right now, that won’t last in the absence of positive sales. Even with more and more consumers leaving ‘big beer’ to drink craft, I’m not sure there are enough new customers to support all the new breweries. When giant Sam Adams-arguably the grand-daddy of the craft scene-has seen it’s stock prices slide for the last two years, it’s not an encouraging sign.
We’re keeping a weather eye on this, tasting new beers before we agree to stock them, and continuing to seek not just the newest and most local, but the best. Here’s hoping the bubbles stay where they belong: in the glass.