Europe - especially the northern countries - has had a long history of brewing beer. With the rise of industrial brewing and internationalization, many traditional breweries disappeared. Lately, things have changed: after a few decades of domination by global beer brands, micro-breweries seem to return, popping up all over Europe again, offering beer drinkers a variety of brewskies they can choose from. What caused these changes and where do they lead to?
The craft beer movement
A frequently heard term that relates to these changes is 'craft beer' . The word seems to carry all kinds of definitions, but can be dated back to the seventies, when people in the US basically had three types of beer they could choose from. Homebrewers started brewing their own beer and some developed into micro-breweries, of which some have become so successful that they cannot be called local anymore since they export to countries all over the world (for example the Stone Brewing company, from Escondido, California and Brooklyn Brewery from New York).
So now things are changing in Europe too. Let's have a look at what is changing and how:
Craft beer – a different type of beer?
Local craft IPAs are what makes the most part of craft beer specialties, and this is where the main difference from mega-corporation brands lies. Inspired by traditional recipes, but with something added to make it stand out, from coffee to rye, craft beers make their own way on the market. Balancing the specific bitterness, without sending the alcohol percentage through the roof, seems to be the biggest challenge, especially since craft beers are considered light, social drinks.
Apart from the brewing process, these ‘new breweries’ have something else in common: these new breweries serve themselves with the same marketing and sales tools that we know from tech start-ups
Vagabund Breweries from Berlin, was founded by three Americans living in Germany. Unsure whether they could really be successful in the 'Land of beer', they chose to focus on expat investors. Through their Startnext crwodfunding campaign, they reached their goal of 20,000 euro in no-time. In the end 90% of their investors turned out to be German.
Oedipus brewing, a brewery start up from Amsterdam, has six different types of craft beer under their belt, and they are already producing 3,000 liters of beer each month. Due to a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdaboutnow, they were able to collect 100.000 euro in 55 days. Money they used to create a new brewing facilities and promote their beers among locals.
Instead of traditional advertising, craft breweries promote their products on fairs, festivals and through their network. Also names change: where traditional breweries call their beers after type or taste , Oedipus for examples gives their beers more inspiring names like: Thai Thai, Gaia, Panty or Slomo (named after the man who quit a medical career to pursue his passion: skating along the boardwalk of San Diego’s Pacific) In Scotland, two punks brew beer under the Brew Dog label. Their internationally known beers cay names like Punk IPA, Five AM red Ale and Dead Pony (I bet you wonder what that tastes like).
Apart from brewing beer, Besserbrauer from Hamburg, Germany sells the ‘Braubox’, a kit that allows you to brew beer in your own kitchen (“If you know how to cook pasta, you can brew you own beer”). The young company has a state of the art website from which they provide details on their products and the brewing process, promote their own brewing events and of course sell their ‘Brauboxes’.
Something in the same spirit can be found in Rome: the Baladin brewery, led by Teo Musso brews some interesting beers. The philosophy behind the beer has to with respect for nature, energy and ideas. By publishing his 'Open Source' beer (a recipe for home brewing), Teo naturally explains the commonalities among the craft beer spirit and that of tech start-ups.
And there are plenty of other craft beer breweries: Germany seems to be the most craft beers facilities. Schoppe Bräu is one of the most loved artisanal beers in Germany, being run by a brewer with over 20 years of experience in the field. Other German craft beer labels worth mentioning are Ale Mania and BrauKunstKeller. But there are so many. In fact Mikrobrauer provides a full list of Geman breweries (click on picture to be redirected)
London should not be missed, either, if you are on a European tour to try out new beer flavors. London brewpubs are proud to exhibit quite a great selection, The Kernel being one of them.
It becomes clear that Craft-beer does not only refer to a specific type of beers, but also to a specific mind set: independence, creativity and people in stead of machineries. Brew Dogs' mission is:
"to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. All we care about is brewing world class craft beer; extraordinary beers that blow people's minds and kick start a revolution."
It is this spirit new beer start-ups have in common and gives them the courage to experiment with new ingredients, products and business models.
As for the market it is clear that even if not every beer lover will consume just artisanal brands in the future, the big players need to make way for the little guys on this scene, as a revolution seems to have started.