By the early 1970’s, small regional brands across the US were struggling to survive against the on-sought of the big boys, AB, Schlitz, Pabst, and Coors. Soon Miller, recently acquired by Philip Morris, was also included in this group of key players. To make matters worse, the small breweries had made a number of mistakes, mostly in the area of marketing, adding to their problems. In other words, the small breweries had lost their loyal customer base to the nationals.
At about the same time in Austin, the progressive country music scene had just begun. Known as “redneck rock,” it was led by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Michael Murphy, B J Stevenson, Leon Russell and others. Because the music scene was local, it took off in South Texas, and then spread to Houston and Dallas, and finally up to Nashville. But Austin remained the base, where on almost any night; one could hear these musicians live. This group of entertainers got behind Lone Star beer, since it was from San Antonio, and supported the brand in a big way. The brand took off behind the revised longneck returnable bottle, and even the neck label was revised to say, “Longneck.” The brand came up with the tagline “The National Beer of Texas.” It gave some life to the brewery, but ultimately it was short lived. Later that decade, Olympia brewery bought the company.
Much of today’s crafts’ success is based on the local community getting behind their local beers. How many times has an expert on the industry stated “that to be successful, you have to develop your home market?” As an example, in Warstein, Germany, you can’t find an on premise account that sells anything other than a Warsteiner product. The same goes for Krombach, Germany (Krombacher), as is true in many other towns that have a brewery. Of course, they have tied houses in Germany, but both Warsteiner and Krombacher are two products available all over the country. Not many other brands have this same coverage.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “What would Jesus Brew,” highlights how churches, in an attempt to reverse declining congregations, or reach younger members, have started brewing crafts with members of the church. In some cases, the churches even have contests with neighboring churches to determine the best tasting beer. One team is named “Brew unto Others” with a slogan, “God’s peace. Happy yeast!” The article goes on to highlight the history of church and beer, which as we know, has existed for centuries. Again, bringing to light how a local community can support a brand to which they are emotionally tied.
The growth of craft beers can be attributed to a number of things. Not unlike the little towns in Germany that support their own local breweries, we are seeing the same community support in the US. Look at the Northwest and the support given to local crafts beers. The crafts dominate that region of the country and now the phenomenon is spreading to other states and other markets
Today’s crafts have replaced the strong regional brands of 50 years ago, but what made those regionals so strong is exactly what is making today’s crafts such a hot ticket. Just as one can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, a brand cannot be successful without community support!