It is very easy to assume that innovation and creativity in today’s world is the exclusive domain of the new age industries and brands. We are constantly in awe of the speed with which technology is changing our world and how we live. Fashion and entertainment go through reinventions as much by necessity as through creativity at a seasonally frantic clip. But I would like to laud one ancient industry that I believe has shown as much if not more creativity and change than any of the usual suspects we hail as change agents: The American beer market.
If we take 1663 as the official birth of the American beer market when the patent for the country’s first brewery was obtained, then the last 20 years of this industry would represent about a year in the life of the world wide web and about a month in the life of smartphones. And yet, in that time we have seen the most phenomenal transformation.
Twenty years ago, I would be hard pressed to find many regular bars with more than a half dozen beers on the menu. American beer was largely defined by lagers and while craft beers existed, you had to really sniff them out. Today the market is awash with the most fantastic array to satisfy the most delicate and most sophisticated palettes. At one end you have the Bud Lite Limes of the world taking beer to the brink of alcoholic soda and at the other end you have a cornucopia of craft beers to rival anything you’ll find in Belgium.
Within a 4 block radius of my home in Jersey City, I can find a drug store selling a wide selection of fine craft beers that 6 years ago would have only offered Bud and Miller Lite and a Beer Hall with up to 40 fantastic beers on tap, not to mention liquor stores carrying some of the most original brews and brands like Arrogant Bastard, Dogfish Head, Smuttynose and my personal favorite Santa’s Butt!
In New York City, the plethora of craft bars like Rattle ‘N’ Hum and Grape & Grain that have emerged in the last few years is testament to the growing sophistication of the American taste for beer and the creativity of the brewers.
But this is not just a big city phenomenon. Travel anywhere in the States these days, and the breadth and quality of the beers available from both small brewers and the giants is staggering.
What is behind this transformation?
Our penchant for variety?
The growing diversity of our culture and our tastes?
Market necessity (craft beer is the only sector of the beer market that is really growing to any significant degree)?
Good old American creativity and ingenuity?
Or perhaps it is a function of the fast pace of change in all walks of life…that change begets change and that businesses and brands that stand still are doomed?
…I’d venture it is probably a little of all the above.
So at this time of year, when we’re all giving thanks to friends, family and all the shiny new gadgets and gizmos that we assume are the only things really driving change, I’d like to raise a glass to one of civilization’s oldest forms of personal and social gratification: Good old -and brand new- beer!
Posted by Rochelle Fainstein on behalf of:
EVP Design Intelligence