The Nineties emo band Far kicked off their 1998 album Water & Solutions with a line that’s stuck with me ever since—“We never underestimate the destructive power of change.” Change is a powerful thing and not something to be taken lightly. It is transformative, but the positive or negative nature of that transformation is never guaranteed.
The brewing industry has been engulfed in change at a breakneck pace for the better part of the past decade, and so far this year we’ve witnessed some of the more negative effects of that change. Breweries that have made great beer (and beer that has been well reviewed on these pages) have thrown in the towel, many chalking the decision up to being caught out amidst the rapid pace of change and unable to financially pivot to the new realities of the marketplace. What consumers wanted 6 years ago is not what consumers wanted 3 years ago, and that is not what consumers want today. Bombers and 750ml containers are all but dead at retail.
Sixteen-ounce cans that brewers couldn’t sell in 2013 are now the only package that many consumers want to buy. But for breweries that have to invest six figures in new packaging lines each time consumer tastes move in a particular direction, these investment decisions can mean life or death for their businesses.
Change is also exhilirating and the reason that many of us have been drawn to craft beer over the past decade or two. Watching styles evolve as creative brewers push the envelope of expectation, or create entirely new categories altogether, is honestly thrilling. Craft beer is moving so fast, in fact, that we rarely have the time to step back and appreciate just how dynamic the entire thing is. As destructive as change can be, it’s also the reason craft beer has been so successful.
With that in mind, we are constantly asking ourselves “are we doing the right thing, reaching readers with the stories and content that help them with their brewing or understanding of beer?” Just because what we’ve done has worked in the past doesn’t mean it works now or will work in the future.
With this issue, you’ll see a few answers to those questions we’ve been asking ourselves—new departments, new ways of engaging a broader cross section of the beer world, new voices, and some re-thought approaches to familiar things such as our reviews.
We’re parting ways with some standbys such as “Beercation” and welcoming the new in their place. But what you see here is just the beginning, so keep reading and let me know what you think of the changes (good or bad). We always appreciate honest feedback, no matter how hard it can be to hear sometimes.
We hope you enjoy the changes reflected in this issue...because we made it for you.