The American craft beer industry is still at a very young age compared to that of other brewing giant countries like Germany, Belgium, and England. Regardless of the timeline, craft brewing here in America has exploded across the country in a relatively short period of time. It’s hard to fathom going into a bar and not being able to find some familiar local brews or some unique brewing creation from elsewhere. And if you’re like me, you typically don’t stay too long if you can’t. Craft beers win over consumers with their quality and diversity. But at times it can become difficult to expand and gain exposure without the same marketing budgets as the major brewing giants like Anheuser Busch or Labatt. A large portion of the overall success of craft brewing from a business standpoint can be attributed to the ever-growing internet phenomenon.
It’s hard to imagine that craft breweries could compete with mass marketed brewers outside of their own geographic areas if not for the use of all of the tools the World Wide Web has to offer. The internet provides brewers with alternative communication channels besides TV and print to expose their brands to a larger audience. With tools like websites, blogs, and social media, the Internet’s largest contribution to the craft beer industry is the opportunity for consumers to engage directly with the smaller brewers, and market beers themselves.
The use of websites allows consumers to research their favorite beers or maybe ones they’ve never heard of. They serve as great learning tools. Websites allow users to stay informed and gain more knowledge about the world of beer and the particular beers of their choice. Websites can also offer special promotions to encourage business. A great website often times serves as the face of the franchise so to speak, and can say a lot about the brewery itself. One of my favorites happens to be magichat.net.
The art of blogging has opened up an entirely new realm of exposure for breweries of all sizes. Blogs provide not only the brewery, but also the consumers, a forum to speak freely about their favorite, or maybe least favorite beers, brewers, and events. A brewer can comment on an event they are hosting or their latest creation in real time to a worldwide audience. Blogging also provides other internet users an opportunity to comment and contribute their own opinions to promote more craft brew conversation.
Beer lover websites give coverage to all brewers, and give small operations a spot in the limelight. Some brewers have limited advertising budgets. E-mags give them a chance to promote themselves directly to their target markets; even in areas of the country where they are not as prevalent. Much like a subscription magazine, beer lovers can visit sites like beeradvocate.com or ratebeer.com and find the latest news and reviews in the industry. Often times these websites will provide interesting articles and reviews that give readers a unique look at the craft brewing industry outside of the pint in front of you.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter give craft brewers a unique gateway to receive immediate feedback from those who are following their activities. It serves as a communication channel between the business and the consumer that makes interaction simple and appreciated. These interactions are likely to create a better relationship between brewer and drinker. Consumers can almost feel like they play a small part in the whole process. Most major craft brewers have a Facebook and/or Twitter account like Schafly, Stone Brewing Co., and Dogfish Head.
Possibly one of the most unique uses of the internet related to craft beer is the national exchange of small or geographically constrained breweries through the mail. The premise is fairly simple. Beer lovers get in contact with other beer lovers from different parts of the country and trade brews that are exclusive to that particular area or region. Internet use makes meeting others who are willing to trade easy. Thousands of beer geeks actively participate in beer blogs or forums and are often more than willing to exchange for beers they can’t normally drink.
It’s hard to say where the craft brewing industry would be without every tool the internet has to offer. In my opinion, great beer will always find its way into the hands of those who seek it. But, not everyone is usually looking as hard as I am. My guess though is that the industry would still be growing, but at a much slower rate. Mainstream brewers would dominate and craft beers would be more scarce. If not for the exposure the internet provides craft brewers, both beer geeks and casual drinkers alike would have fewer options to choose from. Thankfully for all mankind we do have the internet, and it shouldn’t run out for at least another 20 years.
[techtags:CRAFT BEER, BEER TRADE, BEER BLOGS, BEER SITES]