Craft Brewing: A Business of Passion, Art and Science
As craft brewers take on more of the overall beer market share, everyone’s been asking: will the camaraderie between craft breweries continue to be as close-knit, or will the “rising tide floats all ships” mentality start to dissipate?
With trademark disputes popping up between breweries all the time, one might wonder if this is an indication of the latter. But after attending the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in Denver, my faith in the craft beer industry has been restored.
After attending seminars at CBC, I learned these brewers are pretty open to spilling secrets. They want to help others succeed in the craft brewing business. The candid advice offered included stories of pitfalls, poor planning and regrettable decisions that each brewery made along the way, but they overcame, and they want to help others avoid the same issues and share in their triumphs.
You can’t have craft without pride, and while often times we see things like trademark disputes as an attack based on what the media portrays, it’s really more about defense. It’s about protecting the brand that the brewer has worked so hard to build. When possible, of course the “can’t we all just get along” approach is best. But, when two brewers share the same market, each brewer deserves the right to protect the reputation they have earned.
You wouldn’t want to be known for something someone else of the same name has done, would you? Or worse, you wouldn’t want someone else getting recognized for what you have worked so hard to create. Opinions aside, many consumers don’t know that part of having a trademark means policing it—or else there is a risk of losing it. So even if the brewers want to get along, holding onto their good name is more important.
Here’s a spoof from Shlafly Beer poking fun at the “Trademarkaggedon” of the craft beer movement.
While there is room for everyone to get a piece of the market, this isn’t a fairytale—it’s business. Tap handles will paddle out others and six packs will elbow others for shelf space. But it’s a business of passion, art and science. Brewing is taking these independent ingredients and making them cohesive. The craft brewing movement reflects that.
Do I believe the camaraderie is on its way out? Absolutely not. We will certainly see a lot more competition between brewers, but craft brewing is collaborative by nature. No matter what happens with the market share, the idea-sharing and respect craft brewers have for one another will not cease and desist.