28 Jan 2013

Amateurs vs Professionals


Birraire posted today a very insightful analysis (in SP) of the situation in the "micro" segment of the Spanish brewing industry, and I couldn't agree more.

Like in many other countries, there is micro brewing bubble in Spain. Unlike the Czech bubble, where the predominant model is the brewpub, the Spanish one has fed mainly from homebrewers, who (likely) trying to find a way out of the crisis, and encouraged by the growing interest in the so (falsely) called "Artisan Beer", have set up small brewing enterprises with much illusion, passion, no little sacrifice and loads of hope.

The thing is that passion, illusion and enthusiasm are not usually the best sources of advice, specially if we are speaking about establishing a company. All this is related to what I said the other day:
"If you are a homebrewer who's planning to go commercial in 2013, before you brew your first batch, leave the homebrewer at home. Making beer won't be your hobby anymore, it'll be your job."
And that is exactly one of the biggest challenges facing the dwellers of that bit of the industry. This isn't about the quality of their products, it's about a more philosophical thing. Homebrewers make beer for themselves, without commitments or risks, while the commercial brewer makes beer for others. The product, therefore, should not be so much something that "I like", but more something that the consumer will like.

It's logical, and yet, there are many fetishists who see in this some sort of betrayal to certain imaginary ideals. "The craft brewer should keep the free and adventurous spirit of the home brewer, because that is the only way they will be able to keep on making beer with passion", or some bollocks like that they will say. Unfortunately, there not few manufacturers that listen to this nonsense and even believe it, and (partly due to their own fetishism) will deny being "commercial", assure us they don't make beer for money, but because they love beer and the art of brewing, without realising that all that feelgood gak can turn into the shovel that will dig their company's grave.

The day the bubble bursts, the survivors won't the passionate, the romantics, the idealists, but those who were able to build solid companies around clear ideas and strategies. Those who understood that beer is an industrial product (even if they don't say it out loud), that the key to long term success is not in following the latest fad and keep the fetishists happy with the novelty of the week, but in satisfying the true drinkers, the ones that want a product of good and consistent quality at a fair price, the ones that prefer to drink that to taste for whom beer is not an end in itself but just one more element in their leisure time.

But this will not be achieved without a change on our part. We should reduce the predominance of fetishism in the discourse (which is, in a way, the goal of the book I'm writing with Alan). It's necessary to stop celebrating the novelties almost automatically, to be more cynical and critical with amateurism, the experiments at the expense of the consumer and the "sucker juice" mongers in general. On the other hand, those who make beer for money, as long as they show us respect and are honest, should be given more praise, because there's nothing in wrong in wanting to get rich.

Perhaps is also time we started speaking more about the less fun side of having a brewery.

Na Zdraví!

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