Making Snowflakes: An Exploration into Rarity, Beer Quality and Industry Authenticity

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We find ourselves in a unique time as beer lovers. Everything and anything is available to us. Whatever we want, whenever we want it.

With a record number of breweries nationwide, more than 5,000 businesses are creating a vast array of styles and flavor experiences, often nearby where we live. According to the Brewers Association, roughly three-quarters of drinking-age adults in the U.S. live within 10 miles of a brewery.

The flip side of this freedom of choice is the natural competition that comes with it. Keeping an IPA on tap is important to satiate American drinkers’ love for all things lupulin, but today’s brewery faces challenges presented by all the other entrants into the industry, roughly two a day. Finding a niche, or, at least, creating one, is a pivotal part of the business, whether it’s as a brewery as a whole or simply providing novel experiences every time someone walks through taproom doors.

Increasingly, the process of creating something “rare” is playing a larger role for brewers. This could be a celebrated one-off beer with limited quantities or a dedicated tap on-location that serves creations never to leave the premises. As businesses grow, evolve and consider how best to position themselves, the use of rarity in all its varieties has potential to impact breweries, industry tastemakers and drinkers.

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Reporter’s Notebook: Why I Wanted to Write About Barrels

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Writing a piece on the market for barrels seemed like a no-brainer.

Aside from continued interest from beer enthusiasts – half the top-50 beers on Beer Advocate are barrel-aged at the moment – it seemed almost impossible to turn my head recently and not find some piece of news about the liquor industry or its growing secondary market with beer.

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Over a Barrel: The Rising Cost for a Specialty Beer

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Editor’s note: for additional background on this topic, see this post.

At its core, beer is just hops, barley, water and yeast. But as it’s always been, brewers find a way to make it more than that.

Exotic fruits, cat poop and bull testicles may help infuse today’s beers with an extra shot of flavor, but it’s an ongoing cask craze that is changing expectations for drinkers and businesses alike. While barrels have been used for hundreds of years (and longer), their purpose within the brewing industry has seen something of a renaissance in recent years.

Wooden tuns previously housing bourbon, rum, tequila and more are finding a welcoming market within craft beer and an even happier consumer base that craves the flavor-rich or high-ABV beers that often come along with their use.

In turn, the jump in use of barrels is shaping up a competitive marketplace that adds another layer to the business of beer.

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