The Problem With Craft Beer

Looking into a pintLast week I got a notification of a liquor store that put on a keg of Epic Apocalypse. I was shocked, as we had last brewed that in May 2014. I check into when we had shipped it, and found out that it was June 2014. This beer was in an EcoKeg which generally is best in the first six months. Therefore I wasn’t very happy that this beer was now being sold to beer drinkers excited to try something new. This beer was not intended to be stored or aged for this extended period. It is a Black IPA, and the hops would have seriously diminished. I’m not saying the beer would have been bad but it definitely would not have tasted like I had intended it to.

I had a discussion about why this beer had been sitting around for so long, and I got the following points from the explanation I was given:

  • many outlets order beers for special events, tastings and festivals (not being used straight away)

  • sometimes less popular beers hold up taps which adds time to the kegs waiting to be tapped

  • outlets will stockpile or panic buy because they don’t know when the next batch will be available, if ever

My learnings from this would have to be focused on the wholesalers/retailers. It has become a pet peeve of mine about outlets pouring beers that are obviously poorly made, faulted and that their customers don’t want to drink. Yes they probably have enough customers to buy it once, but over an extended period.

These bad beers aren’t good for anyone.

  1. they don’t taste good, so customers won’t buy it again

  2. they reflect badly on the bar manager/beer purchaser as they made the decision to buy, and then to put on tap (why would you put crappy beer on tap, customers lose respect)

  3. they tie up a tap that you could put a more popular beer on. Wouldn’t you rather have a beer on tap that you can sell two kegs a week of VS a beer that takes 3 weeks to sell a keg of? Not only are you making more money, your customers are actually happy too, as they are drinking more beer, and staying longer.

Here’s to a decrease in the number of taps that have the next new beer going on. New does not always equal good. I just want to drink a good beer. It should be the role of the bar to curate the quality of the beers it sells. Selling crap beer just shows either lack of knowledge of the beer you are selling or total disregard for your customers.

So what do you think the problem with craft beer is…?

6 thoughts on “The Problem With Craft Beer”

  1. Personally, I think a few things come into play on this topic.
    Education is a big thing, By that I mean that the person purchasing the beer for the bar needs to be educated about beer styles and freshness, If they aren’t educated they need to get educated, once they are educated they should realise it’s bad to hold onto beers for an extended period, with exceptions for styles that benefit from aging.
    Another massive problem is the wholesaler holding the stock for too long.
    The number of times I’ve been sent kegs that are too old is ridiculous.
    I’ve been given many excuses for this but I feel it comes down to one thing; the wholesaler needs to manage their stock levels properly, if they’re not selling the beer quick enough, they should order in smaller volumes.
    Sometimes I wonder about the logic that a wholesaler operates off when they send old stock to bars, surely they realise the damage it will have on the breweries reputation, the bars reputation and their own reputation, if it gets to the point where I’m sick of receiving old kegs from that wholesaler I simply stop dealing with them.
    I agree with you Luke, bars that simply buy the next “new beer” will end up with a pretty hit and miss tap list, people should do their research before they buy beer and put thought into their purchases.
    From the points you took from the wholesaler’s explanation I have the following thoughts;
    – I see the need to buy for upcoming events if specific beers are required but the freshness needs to be considered.
    – Yes, less popular beers hold up taps because no one wants to drink them but the bar operator can’t always get this right as the nature of the craft game sees a large amount of special releases, seasonal’s and the like. I feel it is important for the bar to bring these beers to the taps so the customer can try them, having said that, a bit of research goes a long way.
    – stockpiling or panic buying seems pretty stupid to me, there’s so much good beer around these days that this shouldn’t really be a thing.
    All of those points can be overcome with being educated and giving a shit about the beer.

  2. It’s definitely a problem. We see the same thing play out in venues that prioritise a multiplicity of taps over freshness. It is a difficult balance but venues need to effectively research their foot traffic and numbers and average keg life cycles before deciding on the number of taps to offer.

  3. I’ve not heard of people taking beers off to give the false impression of high turnover, that’s a pretty lousy thing to do. I personally could’t think of much worse than a cold-room full of half empty kegs, not to mention coming back to a beer that was once good only find it’s not so good any more. Maybe I’m a simple man, but the way I see it, beers should be bought fresh and sold fresh with a good range of styles over the taps.

  4. What you describe is poor beer stewardship, full stop. Bad for the consumer, bad for the venue, bad for the brewer – this practice undermines the hard work in the brewhouse, and the astute choice of the customer. The rush to cater to the faddish thirst for novelty-at-all-costs means poorly travelled beers can hold up fresh stock indefinitely, and this needs to be discouraged. Better education of beer retailers is a start – they should understand that the required “maturation” of a beer has already occurred in the brewery, and every beer should be treated like milk, with few exceptions. Better inventory systems, just-in-time procurement, and discounting of beers as they age, should be the norm. Also, consumers have a role, asking “How long have you had this keg?”, and sending back tainted beers, with the clear message – “Don’t serve me stale beer!”

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