Being a brewer is like having a dinner party of which you’re the cook. There’s an eclectic mix of guests, all of which have differing tastes and opinions. Guest # 1 hates chilli, guest # 2 loves it, guest # 3 loves sweet, guest # 4 loves savory. I think you know where I’m going with this…
The fact of the matter is you can’t please everyone, odds are there’ll be a couple of folks at that table leaving disappointed and/or dissatisfied. So, what’s the answer? Do you cook a meal that’s safe? The one that will please the majority? Do you cook YOUR favourite meal and hope that it’s received well? Or do you go left field, take a big risk and cook something experimental that no one at the party has ever eaten before?
These are the questions that plague craft brewers and keep them awake at night.
The beer industry is completely different to what it was even just 5 years ago. There are far more breweries, which means there’s way more beer to choose from which allows consumers to be pickier about what they drink. Furthermore, due to social media, there’s a lot more information out there on what is good and what’s not and of course where to find it. This does create issues though, as now, more than ever, trends rule the industry. So unfortunately, if the meal style you craft hasn’t been discussed on your dinner guests Facebook beer page recently, they may not be too excited about it.
A great example of trends controlling the industry was last year with Brut IPA, a brand-new beer style that grew from a one-off in a brewpub in San Fran to worldwide within a mere 6 months. Suffice it to say, barely any Australian brewers had even tried the ‘true to style originals’ from the US but we were already brewing them, simply based off what we’d read about them. It led to huge variables in the style and even some mis-interpretations. Consumers didn’t know what to expect so they had to rely on others to tell them if what they were tasting was a good version. Much like a dinner guest reassuring the others, ‘Trust me, this pasta is supposed to taste like pure garlic’.
I’m not going to say whether this is a bad or a good thing, it is what it is, so as brewers we need to proceed with that in mind.
So, once again, back to the dinner party, maybe the best outcome is variety? If you make it a 5-course meal, maybe there’ll be at least one course in there that each person will enjoy?
This is where seasonal releases come in handy and why (these days) they’re what a lot of breweries rely on for their brand to be hyped about on a regular basis. Of course, if one of your guests hates the first 4 courses, maybe they’ll leave before dessert is even served up…regardless, it certainly makes for interesting dinner conversation.
Whitfords Brewing Co Brewer