Researching Craft Beer: Understanding Production, Community and Culture in An Evolving Sector

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Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Prelims

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Part I: Making and Selling Craft Beer

Abstract

Brewing has experienced a considerable revival in recent years with the number of brewers in the UK being at its highest level since the 1930s (Cask Report, 2018). After decades of mergers and takeovers saw the emergence of a small number of global brewing conglomerates, many of the recently established breweries have spearheaded what has been referred to as a ‘craft beer revolution’. Typically, producing small batches of artisan brews and with small workforces, the output of craft brewers accounts for approximately 2.5% of all beer sales in the UK, but is the fastest growing sector of the drinks market. The growth of the industry mirrors that seen by artisan food producers and has led some to suggest an emerging preference for rejecting mass produced food and drink products.

Despite recognition of the craft beer industry’s emergence, growth and cultural significance, almost nothing is known about the individuals who started these new breweries, nor what their motivations for doing so were. Drawing upon 30 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with owner-brewers of craft breweries from across Scotland, this chapter presents findings examining owners’ backgrounds and motivations for starting their brewery. The findings show a range of motivations and expectations amongst the group of owners and provide a useful basis for making practical recommendations of how other aspiring craft beer ‘entrepreneurs’ can be best supported by the industry.

Abstract

Fewer than half of UK start-up businesses survive beyond five years (ONS, 2020). The Scottish Small Business Survey of 2019 found competition in the market and uncertainty as to how to face it were considered the most significant barrier to success by almost half of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) (Scottish Government, 2020). This chapter considers how four Scottish breweries have formulated start-up strategies to respond to competition in an ever-increasingly crowded marketplace in order to maximise their likelihood of survival. The findings from each of these case studies are presented in an accessible format, and indicate that a variety of approaches to the development of the businesses can be adopted, albeit planned approaches dominate. Drawing on real life experiences of four successful businesses, the practical choices they took provide guidance and inspiration for other aspiring craft beer entrepreneurs in selecting an appropriate approach to and content of their founding strategy.

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors explore the impact of Covid-19 on craft beer in the here-and-now of the pandemic by examining responses of Scottish (UK) brewers to it. The authors’ aim is to organise their responses to the situation in which they find themselves with the objective of making fresh sense of the dynamics of organising during a global pandemic. In pursuit of fresh insight to all of this, the authors seek to illuminate what Covid-19 can do to/for breweries and to know the world differently (through recognising more than one way of knowing). So, to enrich the reader’s understanding of organising in the haecceity of responding to and dealing with Covid-19, the authors’ method of inquiry involves integrating empirical materials from brewery social media activities with poetic transcription from interviews with brewers. The authors find support for the view that such integration of findings through research poetry clothes the social media content findings and neither approach dominates the other. Potential implications for future beer studies from the field of poetry are discussed in light of the new comings-together in this chapter.

Abstract

This chapter brings together a commentary on the three chapters in the part Making and Selling Craft Beer. Highlighting key themes emerging from these chapters, they were put to a seasoned brewer who owns a microbrewery which services his own pub in rural Lincolnshire. The conclusion presents a discussion between the researcher and the brewer to unpack the everyday realities of making and selling beer with particular consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part II: Values of Craft Beer Production

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors explore the entrepreneurial nature of craft brewing. The authors find growth in the microbrewery sector has been supported through a cooperative approach between competing artisanal small firms. This has helped build competitive advantage in resistance to the dominant market forces of large brewers. Data were gathered using semi-structured interviews with 12 craft brewers in the North East of Scotland. Analysed findings are used in the design of a conceptual model on the nature of collaboration in the craft beer sector. An artisanal scene is presented, where community benefit and continued development of the craft beer movement is prioritised, over commercial and strategic growth. The typically small firms in this area share resources and support each other in a drive to wean customers away from the large mainstream producers. The authors argue that the nature of the craft beer sector seeks to actively resist market dominance, not only through product quality and marketing, but also in the entrepreneurial behaviours enacted to sustain the movement. The findings suggest a co-existence of both collaboration and competition in the strategic decisions of craft brewers. The focus is on the locally embedded connections these firms develop in the maintenance of their craft roots, with a range of complex interconnected factors linking brewer, community, and the broader industry.

Abstract

The revival of the modern craft beer industry has been attributed to people rediscovering their tastes for authentic and hand-crafted products from small, local and independent firms – notable in many sectors ranging from food and alcohol products to textile and furniture. While one of the grounding principles of the craft beer sector has been serving the local community, some brewers started to explore growth opportunities beyond their national borders. Some did so by pure excitement and prestige of sending their beers overseas; others sensed that their domestic markets were becoming flooded by other craft beer brands or ‘craft-washed’ beers from large beer companies. This chapter explores two sides of this going-international story – its promise and perils. The promise of international growth represents the fulfilment of the entrepreneurial mission, the opportunity to collaborate on a global level or the result of positive country reputation. While the perils of crossborder venturing are formed by country-level differences (rules, values and culture), the author brings to the fore that the socially constructed and fluid definition of craft beer forms unique constraints. The author particularly explores how the sector’s cultural boundaries and competition for authenticity with large beer companies act as liabilities during internationalisation. This chapter contributes to the extant literature on firm internationalisation by focussing on a unique dataset of internationalising craft breweries from four small open economies (Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and the Czech Republic). In that sense, it also provides valuable insights to practitioners and the general public.

Abstract

This chapter explores the recent successes and lingering challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in the US craft beer industry. It is structured around a conversation with an industry leader – Jess Griego of Bosque Brewing – who has gained national recognition for championing these causes. The chapter is organised around three primary themes: (1) DEI initiatives at Bosque brewery, (2) the pushback the brewery has received for engaging in these types of initiatives, and (3) Ms Griego’s vision for social change within the industry.

Part III: Serving Craft Beer

Abstract

This chapter explores how quality is assessed in craft beer through describing tastes and aromas in relationship to categories of beer style. Drawing on documentary sources, it explores the development and formalisation of definitions of beer styles, and the development of the contemporary language used to describe and assess taste. It then ethnographically explores how these are combined in the practice of craft beer judging at a competition through a novel assemblage of different methods. The empirical work contributes novel methods for exploring tasting practices, detailed ethnographic description of beer judging and an exploration of how the organisation of style guides and taste descriptions have contributed to defining and assessing quality in craft beer.

Abstract

A shift is underway in the licensed trade from drink-led to food-led establishments. The current literature emphasises two underpinning reasons: (i) the need for pubs, bars and craft venues to diversify their income streams in an increasingly competitive sector, and (ii) changes in consumer demand and preferences for the availability of food, especially in ‘craft’ establishments. This chapter argues that a third reason has been neglected: the long-standing regulatory pressure for establishments to provide food alongside alcohol. Drawing on archival research and local authority licensing data, this chapter argues that the shift to food-led provision in licensed establishments must be understood as part of an enduring regulatory concern to foster a more ‘civilised’ drinking culture – namely, a seated, café-style, ‘more European’ approach to consumption – in which patrons drink alcohol alongside food.

Abstract

On-site brewery tap rooms are becoming an increasingly common feature of craft beer businesses and are frequently seen as a vital element in their success. With their origins in the sampling room and brewery visitor centres, tap rooms have evolved into drinking destinations where craft beer aficionados can grow their knowledge and enjoy the prestige of having direct contact with brewers in the proximity of production. It is also a stage where an independent local business can perform its ethical superiority over corporate global brewing. More surprisingly, perhaps, brewery tap rooms are becoming a valuable and trusted community resource, as pubs and other gathering places are lost.

Part IV: Craft Beer Communities

Abstract

A popular narrative connects craft breweries with revitalisation of cities, neighbourhoods or communities, particularly in locations that have suffered from deindustrialisation. Research, too, associates craft breweries with job creation, development of local economies, and with entrepreneurship, crafts production, and do-it-yourself culture. Human geographers link craft breweries with contemporary place-making and neolocalism. Neolocalism, a revived appreciation of local ingredients and production, has become both a societal phenomenon and a business proposition. Based on key indicators for neolocalism, this chapter evaluates to what degree the narrative linking craft breweries with revitalisation, neolocalism and community-building holds for seven studied Finnish craft breweries. The cases presented herein offer a more nuanced view of the phenomenon and open the narrative to variations and richer interpretations. The chapter takes a critical view on narratives that enable, maintain and create societal phenomena such as the craft beer revolution, and it adds to the growing literature on the context and consequences of craft breweries.

Abstract

Few published studies have examined which values and motives might encourage the purchase of craft beer (CB) over the Internet by Millennials. This study aims to investigate the motivations behind CB online buying habits among Millennials, and the chosen context is Italy. Adopting a revised model of the Alphabet Theory, a questionnaire-based consumer survey was designed. The data were collected in Italy, between January and April 2020, from a convenience sample composed of 273 interviewees aged 25–39. A structural equations model was estimated using a three-stage least squares regression. The interviewees were segmented into two groups based on their habits of purchasing CB online, using a triadic split procedure. The findings confirm the significant role played in Millennials’ attitudes towards CB online purchasing habits. Specifically, within the whole sample, our concern was with the essential role played by online product availability. The impulsive desire to discover a moment of pleasure is the principal aspect influencing Millennials’ attitudes (among those who are more inclined to purchase CB online). Whereas, for consumers less inclined, sensorial aspects, self-identity and local identity remain relevant. Given the lack of research on Millennials in this purchasing context for CB, this study breaks new ground to better understand this group and the CB consumer culture in this evolving sector. These findings shed new light on making and selling CB, as well as on the interests of beer consuming communities. The findings may help marketing managers develop appropriate marketing strategies based on a better understanding of Millennial-specific needs.

Abstract

This chapter takes the major themes emerging from the two academic chapters on beer communities and discusses these with a rural craft ‘nano’ brewer in Fife, Scotland. The discussion touches on the value of online communities for learning to brew and advertising to customers. However, this is tempered with a realisation of the divide between the homebrewing education community and the commercial necessities of running a small brewery, and the limited value of glossy Instagram photos to smaller brewers in selling their craft beer. This chapter reinforces the importance of localism and face to face selling for nanobrewers, and the value of establishing symbiotic relationships with other local producers and sellers.

Index

Pages 231-236
Content available
Cover of Researching Craft Beer: Understanding Production, Community and Culture in An Evolving Sector
DOI
10.1108/9781800431843
Publication date
2021-12-13
Editors
ISBN
978-1-80043-185-0
eISBN
978-1-80043-184-3