Which New England Breweries Will Still Exist in 10 Years?

Discussion in 'New England' started by AlcahueteJ, Apr 25, 2018.

  1. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (856) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Credit @mrmattosgood for the idea.

    With companies decreasing distribution, going to auction, and experiencing decreasing sales, which one's are built for the long haul in New England?

    I threw out Notch, and @mrmattosgood mentioned Allagash.

  2. GabrielEVH

    GabrielEVH Initiate (137) Mar 24, 2016 Massachusetts

    Jack's Abby isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The product, price-point, and diversity of line-up is super competitive, relative to the field.
    bostonwolf, meefmoff, Mikecap and 9 others like this.
  3. cmoney13

    cmoney13 Initiate (91) Sep 9, 2017 Massachusetts

    all the really popular ones
    sosbombs likes this.
  4. Jbrews

    Jbrews Aspirant (268) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    Great thread. 10 is way to far out. I would hold it to 5.

    Sam Adams is not going anywhere. That I know for sure.
    eLMsITYbUM and LuskusDelph like this.
  5. wasatchback

    wasatchback Aspirant (270) Jan 12, 2014 Utah

    The ones with the strongest brand identity as well as the best beer. There are a lot of hype breweries out there but if you step back and look at the best ones, the top tier, their brand itself is potentially even stronger than their beer. Logo design, how they speak about their product, authentic stories behind the names of their products and their brand, etc. Authenticity and a unique identity go a long way when it comes to staying power and being a successful business.

    Chances are your favorite brewery that just jumps on the hype train and panders to the crowd of beer bros isn’t going to be around as long as a lot of others regardless of the product they put out.
    LuskusDelph and BeerMaverick like this.
  6. DucRacer900

    DucRacer900 Initiate (71) Aug 13, 2013 Massachusetts

    I like the 5 year arc rather than 10 years.
    I think the keys to longevity in this very heated market are moving slow and steady.
    I think Trillium is an example of that as they grow. LH, maybe not so much.

    Notch, to me, is the other side of the coin, keeping growth small and local.....smart.
    HawkeyeBeerLover likes this.
  7. AirBob

    AirBob Defender (632) Jul 15, 2014 Massachusetts

    Night Shift is positioning itself for the long-term - creating their own distribution company and building out a more diverse portfolio (including NS-branded beer, like Night Light, beer from other breweries, wine, spirits, and mixers) should help them pivot more seamlessly when market demand changes over time.

    I agree with some of the points raised above - breweries like Mystic, Idles Hands, Exhibit A, etc. that grow organically and are focused on their local communities (however that's defined - whether a municipality, metro region, or state) are going to be in a better position over the long-term.
  8. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Defender (604) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Harpoon - if they can maintain their taphandles @ bars given the present competition.
  9. Jbrews

    Jbrews Aspirant (268) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    Exactly, the interesting thing that people don't think about(and if you are really new to craft beer since around 10/11) you wouldn't even know about is the Tap wars and shelf space games. That was everything before the hyper local IPA took hold and people demanded ultra fresh beer straight from the gut. In our area you really can pin that back to when Heady Topper took hold and people began to line up for cans(yes you can argue people were lining up for Kate T G and others but for cans heady was the big one)

    But they really made the statement with drink it fresh on the can and pushing the drink it now thing! However people forget that Sam Adams was advocating that waaaay back with the best by dates and ads that were aired nationally telling folks to look out for old beer. But not its more about the hops and how quickly they fall off. Sam did well on premise due to hiring a strong sales team. Jim and Martin always swore by it and the proof was in the wort. They were able to educate on premise and off premise accounts by regular visits, product sampling, merch, displays and being out there. It worked for years and years. Social media was also somewhat in its infancy and advertising mainly relied on tv and radio. As the world began to expand in beer and production techniques were more readily available as well as the general share of information of the internet your smaller breweries really began to take off. Mix in some online marketing and advertising and wallah. The birth of the hyper local nano-brewery was sort of reborn. I challenge anyone to tell me of a brewery that would advertise on TV now that they would actually take seriously?

    The tap room culture itself also working its way out here from the West Coast and other areas also sort of gave refuge to the few who did not want to go to a normal bar and deal with everything that it brings. College kid, frats, drunks, fights, and pretty much douchery(none of the above bothered me but it does to many) It gave a place where people could gather, get away from TV's and sports for a few minutes and enjoy the beer. Then breweries started to realize that they could sell the cans direct and bam, the lines began. Online forums, Instagram, twitter just fuel the hype fire and any brewery would be foolish not getting on board. But the other thing they realized is they can win those same people from the bars that they once kind of rebelled against and wanted out. So in reality, the tap room culture really is just becoming a bar again for the college kids, ipa bro's and bras and everything people complained on here about regarding the Trillium beer garden(as a lose example) There is enough saturation and new interest still that folks will wait in the lines. But I've said before that myself and others are beginning to just want to put our time elsewhere besides lines. Given the varieties out there. So every time I skip a line a sale is lost. My money goes to the easiest spot that provides a great product(Trillium being a good example of balancing this) I just don't see the line freak mentality lasting another 5+ years. This will be detrimental to the smaller breweries who think that's literally what it's all about. I see it here in Portsmouth when people line up for beers at a brewery who doesn't even need a line. There might be literally 20 people waiting early for nothing. Which says that it's also a thing and not just a need. As those lines shorten and brewery owners realize unless they push to the markets and use some kind of distribution there just is not a huge amount of money to be made. I would assume most are financially responsible and will most likely seek alternative work. The breweries still putting some time on the road in accounts and working with distribution will make the money and remain, whatever the size might be.

    My whole point is to ME, and all of this was just my opinion, there is going to be another shift given that the generations coming forward have even shorter attention spans then I do at almost 37. Bars will still be around and taps will still be fought over. If I owned a brewery I would certainly still put some thought in my business plan into how I can win the taps. And not just in the Lulus, Abbeys and Hobo's.

    I hope to god I can be wrong but the writing is on the wall to an extent. Lets not forget the big guys trying to put the squeeze on pricing the raw materials and Steele.

    The people out there that push for taps and shelf space still deserve a lot of credit. That shit is not easy.
    johnnypaddock, SABERG and HowzitBrew like this.
  10. rightcoast7

    rightcoast7 Aspirant (299) Apr 2, 2011 Maine

    I don’t see any reason why most of them can’t stick around. From what I can tell, the financial troubles are mostly hitting medium to largish breweries who took on a bunch of debt to expand at the same time the market was moving towards local. There are a million small local breweries these days putting out consistently good product that I think will remain popular. As long as they don’t try to get bigger than demand can support, they’ll be fine continuing to exist as popular, albeit small, local businesses.
    sosbombs and skivtjerry like this.
  11. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (856) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    This is where we differ in opinion. I don't think craft beer will remain this popular.

    Remember how popular poker used to be? MMA? I can easily see a lot of the people who jumped on board the last five years not giving a shit in the following five years.
    LuskusDelph, cappy201, Norica and 4 others like this.
  12. cmoney13

    cmoney13 Initiate (91) Sep 9, 2017 Massachusetts

    I didn't jump on board in the last 5 years, but I did kinda dive into the NEIPA craze ~3 years ago, and now I'm sick of it and just want miller high life and guiness.
    Troutbeerbum, messrock, jamvt and 2 others like this.
  13. I_can_smell_the_hops

    I_can_smell_the_hops Initiate (38) Apr 2, 2017 New Jersey

  14. Manfrombelmonty

    Manfrombelmonty Aspirant (274) Sep 12, 2010 Massachusetts

    Well, Guinness is the greatest beer in the world, of all time. They should rebrand it as G-Boat for the hype
    Sheppard and cmoney13 like this.
  15. SenorQuesadilla

    SenorQuesadilla Initiate (85) Jul 18, 2014 Connecticut

    Pretty bullish on the places making the best beer currently, though some will be bought in the next 10 years. Most bullish on the places that have shown to be quick to adapt in the fat years we've seen recently as it bodes well for when things get tougher.

    I think Trillium is the gold standard in regards to this.
    JoeK89 likes this.
  16. Patches826

    Patches826 Crusader (743) Aug 28, 2013 Massachusetts

    I can see the waiting in lines for NEIPAs nonsense going away, but craft beer sales dropping altogether? Not so sure. Do you see people switching back to BMC? Is wine gonna become the hot new thing? Is the younger demographic not into drinking? Cause people don't just stop drinking and I highly doubt many of today's juicebros didn't drink before being introduced to craft.
    FrankLloydMike and meefmoff like this.
  17. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (856) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    All good points. But from what I understand, wine and liquor are far more popular, and have generated more sales than craft beer. This is eating into sales of BMC more than craft beer is.

    Craft beer sales are already beginning to slow, and I believe this past year saw the most brewery closings in years.

    Will people stop drinking? Or more specifically, stop drinking craft? No, of course not. But something that increases in popularity this quickly will most likely level out at some point. As New England IPA lines die down, so will brewery lines in general. And there are those that are positioned to adapt to this slowdown, and those that aren't.
  18. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Defender (604) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    It's already happening - liquor and wine are already stealing share from younger drinkers.

    LuskusDelph and AlcahueteJ like this.
  19. Newport_beerguy

    Newport_beerguy Zealot (506) Feb 24, 2011 Rhode Island

    My thinking is that is the next squeeze, the transition from people willingly lining up at breweries to demanding fresh cans be stocked at their local packy. Those breweries that rely on and make decisions based on keeping all markup in-house will have a difficult time seeing those profits go down substantially. While a place like Tree House in 5 years will continue to be a destination due to the sheer facility and taproom aspect (they will probably transition to draft available at all open hours as their traffic lessens like the rest of the craft breweries), lesser taproom experiences which only offer cans to go will be bypassed as more and more of the "nouveau" options become available in stores.

    Although I laugh at the $20+ 4-packs of Singlecut DDH beers available on shelves right now, they really are in before the rest of their peers transition. While it sticks out like a sore thumb now, their price points will become more in line with the top end options. That said, Jack's Abby's model will scream out even more as their affordable 6 & 12 packs sit well below the price where most of the newly distributed options will fall.
    bubseymour likes this.
  20. mrmattosgood

    mrmattosgood Initiate (99) Nov 6, 2010 New Hampshire

    Something's gotta give w/r/t drinking, though, right? Look at the options younger drinkers have:

    Spiked seltzers, twisted teas, ciders, all the flavored vodkas, canned cocktails, regular cocktails, and so on.

    Then, add the legalization of marijuana, and the variety of ways it can be used: candies, gummies, brownies, cookies; Getting weed won't be an issue; It's essentially odorless now too.

    I'm not saying younger people won't eventually join the craft crowd. Some will. But craft beer was a way into more flavorful and mindful drinking. This is not an issue for the upcoming demographic of drinkers. Plus they're paying less than $20 for 4 16 oz cans.
  21. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (856) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Now that I think about it, with so many breweries today, maybe this thread should have been titled, "Which New England Craft Breweries Will NOT Exist in 10 Years".
    Troutbeerbum likes this.
  22. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Disciple (320) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    The breweries with fun and unique tap room experiences that are able to right size production to match the market change. The breweries that expanded too much or have a bland brewery experience will be screwed.
    meefmoff, JakerLou, Mikecap and 5 others like this.
  23. Jbrews

    Jbrews Aspirant (268) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    The "tap room experience" and willingness to go and wait with crowds is what I think will die out. Newer generations will find something else. I'm sure you, Adam Demamp, hope to hell it doesn't go away like me. But I do think its going to shift back in the direction of store bought beer and traditional bars that can capitalize on craft beer, bmc, wine and liquor. We'll enjoy it while it lasts.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  24. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (856) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I could honestly see either of these scenarios happening.

    The question is, have we truly started a "beer drinking culture" with tap rooms, akin to bier gardens in Germany?

    Personally, I think it might be a mix of the two, with tap rooms still lasting, but the difference will be that the one's who last are the one's that actually make good beer. There's some stellar tap rooms experiences out there that I rarely go to anymore because I'm sick of trying their repeated mediocre attempts at styles that aren't New England IPAs...and some even suck those too...but for some reason people still line up to go there...
  25. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Disciple (320) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    I don't know. N=1 but I'm done waiting in lines. Period. I'm over any feeling of FOMO from beer. I'm burnt out and jaded on the entire craft beer thing and whatever shitty "scene" has built up around it. A unique tap room experience is still a draw for me. I view it in the same way as a unique restaurant...some are restaurants. Jack's Abby, Notch, Backyard ,CBC, a handful of others that get my repeat business.

    I think an event outing will always be fashionable. Some breweries deliver that. Standing in line at a retail factory fingers crossed that you won't have to wait too long again to get a drink will die out fast. Maybe the younger generations will move on but I think there will always be the space for breweries who do the taproom and brewpub thing right.
  26. Jbrews

    Jbrews Aspirant (268) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    I do think the next 5 years as stated above will tell a lot. For my point now maybe it would be a 10 year thing. I myself am turning 37 shortly. So I am assuming as my daughter grows and we get busier and a bit older I'm sure my trips to the tap rooms will be less frequent and the option for home based stuff after work, kids sports, kids school, my sports(gym, surf, etc) getting out will become a treat at best. What I notice in just my nature of meeting other folks out at tap rooms and just looking around (outside of the immediate city) it tends to be late 20's, more 30's and up. I feel as we all grow that next generation under us that are 21 in a few years might have a whole different outlook on it. Considering the cost of living, tuition and other factors are pressing hard on recent grads.

    Will be interesting to see.
  27. Auror

    Auror Zealot (593) Jan 1, 2010 Massachusetts

    Small clarification: the growth has slowed. Sales are still climbing for craft beer, just at a lesser rate of increase. Less acceleration, not deceleration, if you will. The smallest breweries are seeing the biggest growths as well.
  28. Jbrews

    Jbrews Aspirant (268) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    Yup, but as that line begins to plateau for all, then the changes start to come.
    LuskusDelph, AlcahueteJ and Auror like this.
  29. Sweatshirt

    Sweatshirt Disciple (320) Jan 27, 2014 New Hampshire

    It will be interesting. What you said does make sense. I guess I'm banking on the DINKs, like myself, a percentage of the younger crown still getting into craft, the old stalwarts and people who may not be craft beer people but like an event outing to keep things going.
    rojapa and Jbrews like this.
  30. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Champion (856) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    One reason I could see lines dying down for can releases is because of the opposite of slowed growth...the fact that there's SO MANY breweries producing New England IPAs, the need to stand in a line is becoming less and less, almost by the week.
  31. matthewp

    matthewp Initiate (161) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    That and the realization that there's really not much different or new to a lot of these breweries or beers. I love NE IPA's (I just bought a ton at Tree House yesterday) but with every new big brewery I go to its less exciting. The beer is great but not much better than I can get pretty much anywhere else now. Do I really want to spend $4-5 on another IPA that tastes just slightly different just because I haven't had it before? Its not pallet fatigue, its just nothing new. The mystique also wears off when you can walk out of Tree House with over 5 cases of beer on a short line vs a year ago waiting in a long line and getting maybe 12 beers.
  32. ncuba

    ncuba Initiate (32) Dec 20, 2008 Massachusetts

    I was thinking that this is super hypothetical because not only do you have to estimate "craft" growth but also the timing of how styles rise and fall in popularity, since NEIPAs are so en vogue. Even just shifts in tastes might affect pricing premiums and thus revenue.

    Think that the next recession could really wallop a lot of breweries by increasing price consciousness. Could especially weed out newer places if continuing craft customers become less risky with their beer budget and look more to their reliable standbys, or smaller places with less economy of scale and thus flexibility on pricing.
  33. cmoney13

    cmoney13 Initiate (91) Sep 9, 2017 Massachusetts

    Literally every NEIPA galaxy bomb tastes roughly 90% the same. Hell I had a great one from Evil Twin and I generally dislike their hoppy beers.
    matthewp likes this.
  34. wesinator

    wesinator Initiate (0) Apr 30, 2015 Connecticut

    I know for me personally, I used to make the drive to treehouse 2 or 3 times a month at the old brewery, but now that my career has progressed I just don’t have the time to drive and wait in line. So I think you could say that people might have a window in their lives where they can kill 3-5 hours on Friday night or Saturday and it’s fine, but as they get older their life progresses, and if they don’t live close to the brewery then the thought of it becomes ridiculous and you would rather just pick up something local.

    Also I have to say that what you can find at your local liquor store for craft beer has really improved in the past 2 years. The difference isn’t as great as it once was so why spend so much time and money consistently for a product that is 10-15%better? (also Tree House not having growlers makes me not want to go)

    The fact that Trillium is in a densely populated area probably will help them if times do change
  35. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (509) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    At least here in VT, I think all the small breweries who make decent beer and are content to stay small will do pretty well. There is even room for more. Too much ambition at the wrong time is what kills many businesses across the board.

    My bold prediction is that The Alchemist will still be around in 10 years:slight_smile:
  36. Newport_beerguy

    Newport_beerguy Zealot (506) Feb 24, 2011 Rhode Island

    I'm actually seeing social changes across the board, so while I think mostly the taproom experience winning out I also see @Jbrews point. We have a generation at work around/in the 40s, and even with a lot of us having kids we're ready to throw down during the week for a work or non-work event out at a bar. And that has decreased from years ago when we were even more frequent with being out and about. However all the 20-somethings now are not quite shut-ins but definitely not as active as we were. Just a new generation with easy connectivity without having to visit varying groups of friends in person at different events.

    You see how the movie theater business has changed over time. In order to survive they had to improve the seating comfort, incorporate bars into the facility, etc. They couldn't just Soup Nazi it any longer and say you'll watch this new release film in your plastic seat and like it. What changed this is other better over the air entertainment options, better home TVs, etc. The demand transitioned at some point and the industry had to react.

    We have or will be hitting that point shortly with breweries. Too many options both down the street at another brewery or in the stores to just wheel out the cases and watch the lines form.
    Jbrews and Jesse14 like this.
  37. Shyla987

    Shyla987 Initiate (87) Jul 18, 2013 Connecticut

    It's good and interesting to see that no one has really said, "Only the breweries with great beer".

    Many small-ish breweries who make decent or even bad beer will survive because they have become the "townie" bars. I see this all over CT; no one on this forum or ya know, beer nerds in general, buy their beer or visit them, but plenty of people are filling their taprooms. It's sort of how bad pizza places survive; convenience, location, lower price and palates that aren't discerning.
  38. icfpny

    icfpny Initiate (133) Apr 3, 2015 New York

    I honestly wish this were the case.

    Hell, I'm a big believer that the whole NEIPA craze is more tulip nonsense than anything else, but to me the difference between the Green / Double Galaxy tier and their closest competition (think Trillium, Other Half, etc.) is huuuge.
  39. sulldaddy

    sulldaddy Poo-Bah (3,237) Apr 6, 2003 Connecticut
    Premium Trader

    This..100x...many taprooms can become the local bar. With the good profit margin on direct to consumer draft beer sales, many smaller places can succeed.
    I also think any larger brewery with decent diversity of beer styles brewed will have a leg up.

    Hazy IPA wont last forever, remember barrel-aged everything?

    Remember when Sip of sunshine was a rarity on shelves?

    How about 120 IBU west coast IPA as the sought after style?

    Things cycle and there are so many examples of new england IPAs out there.
    No need to wait in line if that is what you want. And breweries that cant evolve will disappear.

    Good post @AlcahueteJ
    SABERG, FrankLloydMike and AlcahueteJ like this.
  40. Jbrews

    Jbrews Aspirant (268) Aug 6, 2013 New Hampshire

    This is literally the best post and most collaborative/non conformational thread in the NE forum.

    Even when people completely disagree.