Where I live every grocery store has been expanding their craft beer section. In some of them, the craft beer shelf space is now bigger than that dedicated to the large lager brewers.
Looking at the extensive selection of craft beer at the stores around here, you would think that maybe there are enough craft breweries already. You might think that starting a brewery and squeezing yourself into the marketplace would cause other brewers to shun you, but you would be wrong. The great thing about the craft beer industry is that most of the people involved are more passionate about great craft beer than they are about profit. They see a new brewery as yet another voice to carry the message of great beer to the public. By opening a brewery, you become a comrade in the fight for craft beer, not an enemy.
You quickly gain membership in a community of passionate, knowledgeable, and sharing people. As a brewer or brewery owner, you can call upon just about any of your peers for advice. Most of the time, you will get an immediate and thoughtful response, often with an offer of additional help, should you need it. They have all gone through many of the same questions and troubles you are experiencing and can offer sound advice. Sure, you should be reading, searching the internet, trying to figure out stuff on your own, but when you’ve exhausted your other options, it doesn’t hurt to ask your brewing brethren. I suppose if you act like a jerk and expect people to do things for you, then you might find that the responses dry up, but a little bit of politeness and patience goes a long way. I think the only expectation is that you pay the kindness forward, when the next crop of new brewers comes along.
Without this built-in system of camaraderie, it would be much more difficult to open a brewery. I always try to work things out for myself, but right from the start I had questions that stumped me. I eventually reached out to other brewers and quickly got the information I needed. Everyone I contacted was helpful, everyone was kind, and everyone made me feel like I’m not alone. Most importantly each had plenty of encouragement to go along with their advice.
There is a similar feel amongst homebrewers, but sometimes it isn’t quite as generous and open, and there are some people that think their information is “proprietary.” I guess craft beer, with its long work hours, low financial rewards, and other risks quickly weeds out the people that lack a passion for craft beer. Certainly, those that want to make a quick buck go elsewhere. Those that would do anything to make sure their creativity and passion reaches the mouths of craft beer lovers are the ones that remain. It is no wonder, with their dedication and passion, that they are willing to help others get started too.