Craft Beers: The Local Difference

In my experiences walking by the beer sections in grocery stores and growing up with my dad being a self-proclaimed craft beer connoisseur, I have seen a lot of local brews. While each craft brewery has its own unique name and plenty of beers on its list, they each tend to cover most of the basic beer bases. Very rarely do you see a brewery without some sort of lager, ale, and/or IPA. These three are standard because of demand in the United States, but breweries are not barred from also producing pilsners, stouts, or porters

While each brewery has a different recipe and style to its brews, this uniqueness is not what generates demand. In my opinion, these breweries are also playing into the craze of supporting local goods. In groceries all over America there are more and more locally grown goods being sold, so why not the same for beer? These breweries are playing up the growing trend of hometown pride. We see this evidenced by Blue Lab as Hugh mentioned in his post, where most of the revenue comes from locals buying from their local brewery. This is also the case with Devils Backbone around Rockbridge County: when people go out to buy “nice beer” they frequently come back with Devils Backbone.

During my time in London this summer, a few W&L students and I stumbled upon a pub where, on the list of 20 beers, we found Devils Backbone’s Vienna Lager. Although there were plenty of beers that we could have bought, we chose the lager out of a feeling of pride for our local brewery. We enjoyed being able to tell the bar tender that we went to school a short drive away from where that American brewery was based.

 

5 thoughts on “Craft Beers: The Local Difference

  1. Local support for certain brands of beer may not be limited to small craft breweries. Many large firms attempt to establish a dominant presence in the markets near their breweries by advertising as the “hometown beer.” For example, National Bohemian Beer (owned by Pabst), sells 90 percent of their product in Baltimore by advertising as the “official beer of Baltimore.” They have also partnered with a local sports franchise, the Baltimore Orioles, as a way of further establishing themselves as Baltimore’s beer.

  2. IF branding is about perception, THEN would it be possible for a “macrobrewer” to create a host of “local” beers that differ solely in their packaging and branding? Or does that only work with either established brand names (Natl Bohemian)? There are lots of defunct local brands, the names of which are likely available for licensing (at the right price). In the case of Detroit, lo and behold, Stroh’s is now made by none other than Pabst….

    • I think this is a definite possibility. There are billboards in most major cities I have been to that advertise beer like Bud Light or Miller Lite and trying to associate the beer with a local baseball or football team, and I think it works. If there was a beer that they only sold in Chicago from Budweiser, I think people would love it and they could make it the official specific beer of sports events. Something like that would need to be slowly integrated, but working off of sport and city pride is an easy sell in my opinion.

  3. I think a key point to take away from craft beer “local pride” is that buying local, in almost all industries is considered a luxury good. Firms like Walmart offer cheap, imported goods, just like big beer firms can offer cheap beer from a few states away. Those economies of scale are impossible to compete with for firms like Blue Lab.

    No matter the industry, “buying local” is considered a luxury. I assume the majority of craft beer firms are aware of their status in that luxury good and I wonder how some of their strategic decisions differ as a result of this realization.

    • Need a local beer be at a higher price? Isn’t it spurious product differentiation, but where the goal may be market share (or perhaps greater advertising effectiveness, the same thing?) rather than margin?

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