Saturday, January 28, 2012

Too much beer in Minnesota?

Yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio, an article explored whether or not our Minnesota beer scene has become too saturated with new breweries.  I'll admit, when Surly and Flat Earth started up, I had the same thought.  How much beer can Minnesota support?  Also, I used to be able to keep the local beer bars in my head, and now there's so many places to get good beer today--often unexpected--that even with research the choices can be dizzying.  So, the big question.  Is the Minnesota beer market saturated?  The US market?  Predictably, I say no.

Reason number one:  Minnesota is becoming a beer friendly location.  The oft cited example is that Portland, Oregon has a much denser beer to drinker ratio.  Can we become a Portland?  In discussion with other beer geeks and local beer purveyors, the restrictive legal environment of Minnesota compared to Oregon stands in our way.  However, recent changes to Minnesota beer laws plus discussion of more changes on the horizon this legislative session bode well for the future.  Assuming legislative support in the future, I think we have the growing tide to be the next Portland, Seattle or Denver.

Reason number two:  It's only up from here.  In 2010, craft beer sales were 4.3% by volume according to Brewer's Association statistics.  At the same time, total beer sales went down 1%.  From my perspective, I think the writing is on the wall.  Craft beer is the new standard, and I can imagine a world where craft beer is not only a double digit market share, but the majority share of beer drinkers. If market share doubles, quadruple or more, the amount of good beer will be staggering compared to today.

Reason number three:  Craft beer per capita favors cold or wet northern climates.  The fabled lands of beervana Oregon (#2) and Colorado (#4) are predictably high on the list, and the remaining top ten states in 2010, in order from top to bottom according to Brewer's Association's rankings, are Vermont, Montana, Maine, Wyoming, Alaska, Washington, Wisconsin and Delaware.  Minnesota not only fits well into the above paradigm, a recent visit to number one Vermont convinced me that the Green Mountain State is a lot like Minnesota: bitterly cold winters, big mosquito jokes and a serious independent spirit.

Viva la beer revolution!

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