A shudder went through the brewing world recently, with seemingly established brands buckling, stuttering and faltering in various degrees. Locally, that’s Epic and Brothers Brewing, but not so long ago New New New disappeared from our shelves. Eagle Brewing, after an abandonment of the brand by many rebranded as Five Peaks, continued to struggle and the brewery has been sold to ChinChiller.
As a beer drinker-adventurer, these events have put me in a bit of a quandary. Like many of you I have a “favorite brewers” list in my head, and I could list a few of mine that you’d agree or disagree with and you’d have your own list.
But there’s a difference between “favourites” and breweries I buy from regularly.
As an adventurer, I could buy every beer that a brewer releases, ticking the favourite and patronage boxes, but that isn’t me. That would be super-fan purchasing — I’m sure it exists, just not from me.
I can reconcile that a “favourite” brewer does not necessarily release a lot of beers, but has a beer that I regularly buy, or an occasional release I purchase, but I also know that not all the beers from that brewery are good beers or in my style preference.
If you take, for example, Epic, you’ll find Hop Zombie is often cited as the gateway beer for craft beer drinkers, and a number of their hop heavy beers garner favourable reviews, but while I might think Hop Zombie is a fantastic beer it isn’t one that ends up in my fridge that often.
I can also reconcile that I might buy a lot beer from one brewer, but that’s based on the variety they offer and not necessarily because they’re a favourite.
I can, and do, get excited when a brewer releases something new that’s in a style I enjoy. I’d actively seek it out. Sometimes there might be a day or two from seeing it in a brewery newsletter to waiting for the delivery to the bottle store — much to my chagrin.
Does my personal patronage make a difference? You might not think that buying one or two cans from your local beer shop, or supermarket, is significant, but it is.
While I can’t, nor won’t, buy 24, 12 or even a 6-pack of the same beer from even a favourite brewer, my small purchases are cumulative and the bottle shop shows a commitment for me, and me to them, by my (very) regular visits.
What else can you and I do to keep our favourite breweries alive? Well, you could sign up to brewery newsletters and shop direct from the brewer on occasion — but usually that means committing to a quantity (a 6-pack for example) or an outlay that may be beyond your tolerance or budget.
I’ll continue my humble exploration and adventure of all the beers within my budget and hopefully keep ticking off the new arrivals or experimental styles (which might also set me off on a “what is a style?” tangent for another day).
I may not single-handedly keep any brewer afloat — that would be quite an extreme assumption — and I can’t change the fact that I while like Hop Zombie it was a rare purchase rather than a go-to. But I can keep supporting my local stores, and brewers, in the way I know best: one, two or three cans at a time.