‘Yes’ is the short answer. Or at least it’s enough of a revolution to be worrying Big Beer.
The current status of craft beer is usually attributed to its popularity among bearded and skinny-jeaned 20-somethings (a description meant without malice, since I pretty much just described myself). However, while once the domain of those seeking trendy exclusivity, craft beer is far from a niche product these days.
Take BrewDog for example. In 2007 they managed to brew 640 barrels between their two employees. Last year, they brewed more than 80,000 barrels with a staff of 540. Chances are you can buy a few bottles of their Punk IPA from your local supermarket (or even the corner shop down the road, as I discovered last week).
They’re far from the only players either. The number of breweries in the UK is the highest it’s been since the 1930s. That number’s still growing too; London and Wales especially are experiencing something of a boom at the moment. This is all having an effect on Big Beer: craft beer’s popularity is part of the reason AB InBev’s net profit was 32% lower in the three months to June 2015 than the year before.
So what is Big Beer doing to stall the revolution? Well, for starters they’ve been creating their own ‘crafty’ beers to compete with it. Blue Moon’s a good example: it’s a Belgian-style witbier, packaged as a craft beer but discreetly developed by the sprawling joint venture MillerCoors. The big players are also busy buying up any craft breweries willing to sell out; Camden Town was snapped up by AB InBev for £85m at the end of last year, much to the ire of London’s beer purists. Of course, there’s always the option of attacking craft beer ‘snobbery’, a tactic employed by Budweiser during the 2015 Super Bowl with a slightly defensive advert
The number of subsidiaries involved in Big Beer means these conflicting strategies are often used simultaneously within the same conglomerate. It’s a combination of trying to beat ‘em and join ‘em. However, with drinkers becoming increasingly interested in where their beer comes from, it’s hard to say how much of an impact these moves will have.
Either way, with more variety and availability than ever, it’s certainly a good time to be a beer drinker.