If you are a follower of the beer blogosphere, or the Twitosphere, I suppose, you’ll know that California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the second largest craft brewery in the U.S., has chosen a location just outside of Asheville, N.C., as the site of their new east coast brewery, as has, oddly enough, New Belgium Brewing. This has some people cheering and others worrying about the chilling effect the arrival of a large capacity brewery could have on the craft brewers of the east.
It has also spurred much talk about something known as the craft beer “bubble,” a belief that all this growth and expansion in craft beer will implode within a handful of years or so. It won’t, and here’s why.
As I wrote last year in Ale Street News, 1 million new barrels of craft beer is the minimum the U.S. will require within the next year if the current pace of market expansion is maintained, and I can find no reason to doubt it will. With most major breweries now maxed out, or, like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, starting expansions that won’t have any effect on the market for at least two or three years, new breweries are essential to the process of filling the craft beer pipeline
So far as fears over the number of distributor SKUs go, most start-up breweries are self-distributing in very small quantities, so that concern is more or less a non-starter.
Make no mistake: craft brewery growth will likely slow over the coming years and some breweries will fail, although mostly because they were ill-designed, poorly prepared for the market or produced below par beers. But as for the “bubble” and it bursting, I believe that’s something no one needs worry about for a long time to come.