Axel Cleenewerck

There are more and more brewers. Fortunately for them, their growth is mirrored by the growth in beershops – a relief for producers, who are as a result assured of being able to present their beers on a stand. This also benefits drinkers, who face a diversity of beers that was inconceivable only twenty years ago. That wide choice is not only to be found in brands, but also in styles, as young breweries like to venture into the most varied categories, sometimes totally unknown to the brewing tradition of their home countries.

So, the growth of small brewers is a guarantee of a large variety. However, it seems to be accompanied by serious price inflation. Among Parisian beershops, it is difficult to find a beer under €5 for a 33cl bottle. And I’m not speaking yet about barrel aged or other sophisticated contemporary products. There’s a paradox here. The consumer no longer knows where to look at as the shelves are so full, but if he cannot afford those products, he will have to limit himself, or leave his merchant’s shop with a heavy bill and say, “See you next year!” Quality has a price, a position argued as an infallible statement of fact. Sure… Be careful not to make beer the product of an elite while it has always been seen as a popular and friendly good.

Even the veterans are struggling to keep up

If a small brewer’s motivation is precisely to introduce his product to a younger audience, perfectly of legal drinking age, but perhaps still in school, he must keep in mind that that target has only a limited budget to eat and enjoy some tasting pleasure. It would be sad if, faced with expensive quality products, a student was forced into standard and common beers but with cheap taste.

Even for a veteran consumer, with a slightly greater purchasing power, the multiplicity of beers is such that it is no longer possible to taste everything, unless you devote a good part of your life – and probably of your health – to it. But that doesn’t really matter, after all. An oenologist has not tested all the wines on the planet and that line of reasoning now applies to the zythologist as well given the overwhelming number of beers now in existence. What is more problematic, however, for the brewer’s credibility in particular, is sometimes the absence of a strong range proposed by a new brewer. However, how can you build an identity without having a basic selection, available when the consumer asks for it and asks for it again?

Brewers, seize the opportunity!

A good way to start skimming off a brand portfolio would be to stop collaborative brewing or at least to make one only after having developed a few permanent beers. Collaborative brews with the public must also be questioned. Brewers, be inspired! Amaze us! Display your preferences and defend them.

Make beer for a wide audience; industrialists already do it by flooding the market with simple and sweetened products. Let them claim a century-old history on their labels. The way is still clear for the creation of original products with a certain identity: that of the brewer. Seize the opportunity!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Axel has worked as a journalist at the Belgian press Agency for more than a decade, for whom he writes about (Belgian) beer. Born and raised in Brussels, he has contributed to two editions of “Le Petit Futé des Bières belges” and today writes for the website and magazine “Bière Grand Cru”. He likes to hear the stories of Belgian brewers and to put their passion into words. Not an easy job, but a glass of beer helps to achieve it!