Fast Company’s Emily Badger wrote a great piece about Asheville, North Carolina, which is quickly becoming an east coast beer mecca.
One tidbit in Emily’s article jumped out at me; how New Belgium and Sierra Nevada, both of whom are building new brewing facilities there, introduced themselves to Asheville’s established craft breweries. From Fast Company:
Both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada wanted to meet all the existing brewers in town–the folks who in any other industry might be considered their competitors–to make sure they were welcome. “This is the thing we did not understand about this industry when they first came to town, and it completely caught us off guard,” Teague says. “In my mind, if this had been any other company, they would have said ‘I don’t care what they think, I’m going to do what I want to do.”
Sierra Nevada even had all the local Asheville Brewers out to Chico in June to brew some beer together there. This industry is different in part because craft brewers have always had a certain collegiality among themselves.
This underscores one of the things that draws me to the craft beer industry – camaraderie. It seems that brewers genuinely like each other for the most part, and work together for the common good (of making tasty beer).
I’ve had my fears that this friendly spirit might be squeezed out of the industry as funky little breweries grow into bonafide corporations and the bean counters start sharpening their pencils.
It makes sense that this isn’t happening (yet). Just about every person I’ve spoken with who has started a brewery was running away from wearing a suit and a tie, or at least a pair of freshly pressed Dockers and a polo shirt. Why would they turn their little oasis of non-conformity into the same sort of soul-sucking corporation they managed to successfully escape?
It’s still early in the game, and as craft beer continues to gain market share, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for successful breweries to forget their roots and turn their backs on their neighbors. This is one of the reasons that I cringe a bit when In-Bev or MillerCoors snaps up a craft brewery – I fear that the beer might taste the same, but the culture that gave birth to it might be nickeled and dimed to death.
At any rate, it’s great to see both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada being such good citizens when they don’t necessarily have to. They have “f-you money” if you will. The fact that they are setting such a good example bodes well not only for us folks who love the industrious free-spirit attitude of America’s craft brewers, but also for the men and women who will be working for them.
Maybe it’s time to start looking for real estate in North Carolina…
If you haven’t read the entire Fast Company article, click here – it’s a really well done piece.