Beerspectives: Craft Beer Is A Hot New Thing…To Advertisers

craft beer beerspectives october writing advertising

In all media, you get what you pay for.

In “Brewing Up A Business,” veteran craft brewer, Sam Calagione, talks about advertising in beer publications. He said he didn’t need the juice so much as he knew they needed the ad support, and he believed in supporting people who supported the industry. That is among the most off-centered things I’d heard about a company that prides itself on going against the grain. Certainly, Dogfish Head would get plenty of coverage because they make good beer well. Also, it’s a cool profession.

You see, beer is sexy. You don’t have to pay people to write about it because they like being beer writers. Hell, I’m a working writer but I contribute to two weekly beer blogs for free just because I can. For the last decade or so, this has been a perfectly-acceptable arrangement for small and independent brewers. Most of us wrote for free because we liked to and they were happy to allow us that, but the price on both sides was we wrote what we liked for a niche audience.

Then, the pesky craft brewers finally cut into Budweiser’s market. Not profits, or rather, not merely profits, but markets. Changing tastes and the wide availability of (and, frankly coverage of) craft beer made it tip and while we were all laughing at how “bad” we thought the beer was, Bud’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, started investing in craft beer, buying breweries and supply chains. It merely was a good business decision. Budweiser does scale. That’s where it is most efficient so the only way in, for it, is to pull craft beer into the mainstream.

Very recently AB InBev took another step, which was to partner with some other largest companies (including Conde’ Nast) to launch, a website aimed at mainstreaming craft beer—I love that they were too cheap to buy which totally is for sale. Since then ,the blood has kinda been in the water advertising-wise. When the world’s largest (at least) beer company has its wallet out, it gets people’s attention. From the text and context of the writing I’ve seen there is a really slow sea-change underway from “drink this particular beer” to drink any kind of craft beer.

It’s like the old rabbit season/duck season gag from Buggs Bunny. The craft industry has been saying “try craft beer” for decades and Budweiser finally agrees. So now what? I don’t have a happy ending perspective here.

I’ve been a professional writer for nearly 20 years, mostly in journalism but eventually in what has come to be called “content creation.” Journalism is a ruthlessly depressing occupation. Not because of the things you cover, but because of the reach you don’t have. There is a real Fahrenheit 451 vibe looming over local independent writing. It isn’t burning because of evil but rather apathy. Everybody knows every fucking thing.

On the upside there are a lot of us out there who have a kind of long view. The fact that we’re not doing this for pay means we can’t get fired. It also means we can be truthful, or at least honest. And there is something to be said for that.

Drink what you like and be happy.

For what it is worth, Dogfish Head is a minor advertiser in my primary job, but I don’t benefit directly from their sponsorship.

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Tony Russo has been a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century. He writes for as well as several destination websites and has published two beer books for History Press. He also produces "Beer with Strangers" a weekly homebrew and beer culture podcast. Tony lives in Delmar, Maryland, with his wife and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they try and keep their dog and cat comfortable.

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