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Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Get Ahead in the Craft Industry: 3 Examples

Each and every craft brew is inherently unique. When trying the same brew twice, you can almost always notice slight differences.

From yeast profiles to the style of hops, that's the magic of craft beer—the art comes with the territor The difficulty with this perspective is that it's not always what makes the most profit.

As empty as that sounds, brewers are finding it difficult to preserve their craft when sales demand for the beer to be at large volumes and consistent.

2016: Year of New Standards

Today's booming craft beer movement was born from small businesses and hobbyists. According to the Brewers Association, those small-scale operations still pave the way for market trends as they now represent a 12% market share of the overall beer industry. 

Throughout 2015, American craft brewers experienced a 16% increase in retail dollar value, and produced a 13% rise in volumes. At this time, 4,269 breweries are operational. That's an all-time high for the US.

Plenty of diverse breweries lead to brews of all kinds that drinkers can enjoy.
However, this also creates a very competitive scene. What's happening is that these businesses have a pain point in common: Distribution

Smaller breweries are able to compete locally, but various problems arise as their product becomes popular and they decide to ship further out. They often don't track enough metrics to recreate every brew according to the same parameters. Breweries easily become inconsistent if there are too many hands on the product.

This has pushed facilities to add machines for controlling the consistency of their brews. With more automation added, brewers are also further removed from the process.

To Automate, or Not to Automate?

Leading up to the KOP Beer Fest this October, we interviewed six breweries that will be present at the event to learn about what it takes to meet these increasing demands. 

For a look at the full article and interviews, check out Better Buys' post: A Visual Guide to Brewery Automation: 6 Exclusive Interviews. Here are the graphics demonstrating what's most often automated, versus what can never be fully automated:

3 Breweries With Their Own Edge 

It's no surprise that Victory is the most automated local brewery we spoke with, as they've mastered consistency down to a science. Their investments in automation have paid off, and it's a source of pride that they're able to deliver what their customers want every time. 

But a delicacy for regional beer has also emerged. The romance of brewing is kept alive especially in these facilities, and captures a different kind of drinker. 

For example, one American Double IPA is Heady Topper by The Alchemist, and it's only sold in Vermont. For many drinkers, it's worth a vacation to enjoy the charm of an exclusive brew. While The Alchemist doesn't have a restaurant, lines form at 11am and are well out the door on any given day.

Breweries can also gain an edge in their region through their ingredients. Einstok produces a summer brew called the Icelandic Summer Berry Ale, brewed with bilberries only found in the subarctic taiga region. Within Iceland, this brewery has grown to make up 60% of the country's beer exports and has managed to increase shipments 250% in 2015. They've scaled at an unprecedented rate starting out as an exclusive flavor. 

These three breweries capture different styles of beer drinkers and compete on their own terms.
While Victory can produce their familiar brews in massive volumes from coast to coast, The Alchemist instead focuses on bringing fanatics to their doorstep, and Einstok is so incredibly unique that they're able to scale without competition at their own rate.

The Impact

Automation plays a part by increasing volume and consistency for any given brewery, but what makes a brew successful is still hidden in the romance. 

We found that there will always be tasks manually completed by brewers. Logically, it's too expensive to exclude all the human hands, but it's also because there's much behind the process that keeps the craft alive. 

Small breweries have a choice whether or not they want to scale out and bring more automation into their facilities. Competitively, it's a great option as Victory has shown, but it's not the only one.
Be on the lookout for this market to change as breweries learn how to target their loyal drinkers that not only buy their products, but also fall in love with them.

Author Bio: Julia is a writer with Better Buys, a maintenance software research and review site. Follow her @JuliaScavicchio for more insight on how our workforce is changing.

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