I've no idea who Noah Davis is, but he manages to touch just about all the relevant bases in this excellent analysis of the current state of the craft beer market. It's an article I've been trying to write for a long time, and he's to be congratulated.
The Craft Beer Market Has Exploded, And Now Brewers Are Worried About A Collapse, at Business Insider
While NABC has had steady beer production growth the past few years, market fissures have been obvious for quite some time, paralleling Davis's central points.
The most rabid beer enthusiasts, whose "latest and greatest" collective viewpoint as a sort of priestly caste are disproportionate to the market share they support, which is small, are not inclined to be loyal to beer brands of any sort, and when they are loyal, they gravitate toward rare and esoteric beers from outside their own region.
Meanwhile, competition based on price point alone is impossible, whether it's Budweiser for two dollars a bottle, or Sierra a buck cheaper than anything a brewery NABC's size can afford to sell and still make any money at all.
Yes, there is a big middle ground of brand loyalists, and these are the folks (thank you) who drink our beer at the point of origin, in our own two on-premise establishments. With beer geeks and price-conscious shoppers out of reach, our bricks and mortar operations become ever more important to us.
I find all this challenging, but also encouraging. If a shakedown is coming and the market is pushing breweries our size into local and regional corners, that's a paradigm with which we're equiped to compete. We have strengths for such combat -- our own outlets, an existing customer base, great products and wonderful staff. There is no single beer sales rep working for a brewery located 1,000 miles away who can inform and please customers like the collective weight of NABC's 70+ employees.
If it means some redefining and reinvention in terms of plans and operations, that's also good. In fact, they've been underway for a while, and hopefully will begin hitting critical mass as the new year dawns. There are many things in the past we'd do differently if given the chance, but the most important point is where we are today, and where we're going tomorrow.