Saturday, June 27, 2009

"But Mommy, I Want 90 IBUs Now! Waaaaaah!"

Folks, I have to get up on the soap box for a minute, so indulge me if you will. We are starting to develop a problem, and I think I may be partly to blame. The good news is that it isn't too late to right the ship. What I am talking about here is our current appetite for new beers. It is insatiable. As more and more new beers pour into our market, we Atlanta area residents are jumping all over each new entry like a pack of hungry jackals on a fresh carcass. Except in this case, the carcass is usually awesome beer, and people generally behave pretty politely around each other when they get their hands on them. Here is the problem. Before we have even gotten close to picking the first carcass clean, another one drops out of the clear blue sky, and we rush over to that one and start grawing away on it. the first one is still warm for Christsakes.

How, you may ask, am I to blame for some of this? Well, I got just as caught up in it as everyone else, and paid so much attention directing our customers to new items, that I became part of the problem. "What problem?" you may me wondering. "I love all of these new beers. Keep 'em coming," you could be thinking. Or, "What? It isn't over is it? Oh god! Say it isn't over! I need new beer to live! Damn it, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a house plant!" This is where someone slaps you and says, "Get a hold of yourself man!" If you are a man, that is. If not, I doubt anyone slaps you. If they do, that is not cool at all. In fact, I don't really think slapping a lot of hysterical people is a good idea in general. Just let 'em go. Why are they your problem all of a sudden? Who are you to judge who needs to get slapped? What if what they are freaking out about actually is that important? Hell, maybe you should hear them out, get hysterical yourself. I mean, if it's that important, I'll hear you out. Just as soon as you put the knife down. Slowly....That's it....

The situation in the beer world in Atlanta right now looks great on the surface, but underneath that veneer, things are not so pretty. Like Michael Jackson's face. Before he died. Sorry, not a fan. What, too soon? Whatever. Hey, what was Michael Jackson's favorite college football team? Bringham Young (say it out loud if you don't get it). You want more MJ jokes? I got 'em, and they get more offensive than that last one. OK. Some other time. Moving on....

The beer situation is precarious right now because we are getting downright spoiled rotten. This market is looking great to all of these new breweries flooding the market. I mean, they can't lose. For now. What about all of those breweries that came here last year? The year before that? How about 2006? Remember how "new" those beers tasted back then? How about people doing business in our area before the 6% law changed in '04? Well, I think it's time to revisit some of those old brands. If we continue to only chase after the newest beers, the craziest odd-ball batches and special releases, we are weakening the foundation upon which we built such a market to be attractive to breweries who make those beers in the first place. Once breweries start showing declining sales, steeply declining sales, after 1-3 years in GA, the future will suffer. Word travels fast in this business. These people all know each other, and there is a beer event about every 1.8 seconds somewhere in the U.S. I just made that up, but there are a lot. If the Atlanta market starts getting the reputation for : "Yeah, it's great for about 18 months, but by then, 10 more breweries had come into town. My sales went through the roof and then into the basement in a year and a half," then the plethora of beers we are enjoying now will slowly start to fade. The beers we used to buy, just a few waves of news ones ago, will not just sit on the shelf like a forgotten toy, abandoned by a spoiled child that gets a shiny new one every week. They will take their beers and go somewhere else, talking bad about us, about you, everywhere they go.

Dark news for sure. However, I don't think it's too late to save the patient. If we do two important things, collectively, we can keep the staus quo that we are all loving so much right now.
  1. Use your wallet to speak your voice. Start buying some of those older favorites every once in a while, and see if you aren't pleased to revisit those flavors. I am not saying go back to when you drank crappy beer, and I am not saying do it all the time. Just break out of the spoiled-rotten, gotta-have-new-beer-or-I-am-going-to-throw-myself-on-the-floor-and- start-crying rut. In fact, you just might realize that the one you really love, like in a sappy movie, was right there in front of you the whole time. Do it for the people who believed in us before it was a no-brainer. I mean, selling craft beer in Atlanta is like shooting fish in a barrel these days. The folks who are coming here now, great breweries mind you, are not exactly taking much of a chance or getting creative with their growth strategies. This is the fastest growing market for craft and import beer in the country. And we are just throwing money at these people, who are really just following the leaders. How about some love for the leaders already. Give props (and sales!) to the innovaters and risk-takers.

  2. Help grow the number of craft beer drinkers in the Atlanta area. When there is a finite number of people buying craft beer, then there is a ceiling to this Shangri-La we are currently experiencing. Want it to continue? You can't do it alone, and neither can I. We, those of us who have helped create this market, can't be counted on to be the sole supporters of it indefinitely. That is not rocket science people. It could be your neighbor, it could be a co-worker (if you still have a job right now), it could be the friendly person who wants to start up a conversation in a bar. Maybe the next time you have company over for dinner, do a beer sampling. There is certainly no shortage of info on pairing beer with food. Clearly you know how to use the internet. Blow your friends' minds with some well chosen beers for that next backyard bbq. It won't cost that much. I mean, not everybody drinks as much as you do. Invite some curious associates to the next beer fest in Atlanta (again, the internet). There are two big ones in October. Hopefully the temp in GA does not still resemble the surface of the sun by then.
That is it. Off the soap box now. Thanks for listening. I hope that you will think about these issues, and take them to heart in some way. The ultimate goal of this mentality is to preserve the great situation that we have now, and not revert back to the dark ages. I appreciate your time. Have a great weekend. If you are free Saturday, there is an oak-aged cask of Red Brick Peachtree Pale Ale at the Mall of GA store. It tasted great when we had one at Metropolis last month.