08 December 2009

What New Beers Do We Want? And Do We Need Them?

The DC-Beer e-mail list has been chattering with a discussion of "new" beers in the DC market for 2009, and a few discussions about possible new ones for 2010.  Remember, this is Washington, DC, and by extension suburban Virginia and Maryland:

Duck Rabbit
Terrapin [ironically, was contracted in Maryland until recently--and not related to U. of Md.]
Bruery  [Available in Baltimore]
Firestone Walker
21st Amendment ([also in Baltimore]
Goose Island
Stoudt's [disappeared for a while, seems to be back]

Possible/desired new entries for 2010:
New Belgium
Lost Abbey/Port Brewing
Russian River [available in Philly]

Now comes the delicate question:  With such a rich diversity of beer brands and quality available here, do we really need to see more beers here?  Is bringing in New Belgium, for example, worth probably losing shelf space for, oh, I don't know, The Bruery, Great Divide, or Avery?  Is Lost Abbey or Port worth losing Lagunitas or Stone, or several of the Belgians?  Because face facts, folks, there's only so many craft beer dollars to be had, absent some "benevolent dictator" outlawing industrial-scale lagers like Bud, Miller, and Coors.  There are times when I truly feel bad that I'm passing up, say, a terrific Avery or Brooklyn or Oskar Blues or Otter Creek or Allagash beer in favor of something just a little bit more special, distinctive, local, or oddball.  Beers are only worth the trouble of shipping, making distribution arrangements, etc. if they can get repeat customers, not just "okay, check that off my list" samplers.

Beside which, isn't there good reason to keep even the best beers local?  Shouldn't I have good reason to look forward to visiting a beer bar in California, Colorado, Chicago, or Casablanca?  The last thing I want is what I had happen during my last visit to Arizona, where the bar was ever so proud to show off their newly-acquired Dogfish Head beers (and I was wearing a Dogfish Head belt buckle!), and I had to get them to pull out the local stuff from the far corners...........  including, of course, Lost Abbey Ten Commandments......


The Oriole Way said...

These are all great, ponderable questions, but I think there is still room for more craft beer. Nationally, craft is growing at an 8-10% clip while macro sales are flat to declining. Granted, this makes less than a 1% dent in the overall beer market, but it still means more dollars for craft. Regardless, with more than 1,500 breweries nationwide, the question of when is enough enough (at least in any one particular market) is a good one to ask. And, personally, I like drinking local. Though that may be because I get to Oregon so frequently and can get my Rogue, Bridgeport, etc. fix; I also like that we get lots of the Colorado favorites in Baltimore.

Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

Great question! Traveling and drinking local makes my world go 'round. I remember before Stone beers were in MD I would be like a kid in a candy store everytime I got out of town and I had one of their beers. Now that it is on every shelf I haven't been excited about their beers since Max's had 14 taps of their stuff side by side this time last year. I still get that feeling though when I get my hands on Bells, Sly Fox, Duck Rabbit, RR, New Glarus, 3Floyds(remember when we had 3F's for a little bit?) or Speakeasy. I am afraid I would not be happy to have those beers all the time.

Sam Sessa said...

I'd kill for a six pack of Foie Grasenstein Abbey Ale, made with real foie gras. Oh wait, that doesn't exist ... yet ...