It’s very easy to apply the concept of “the beer journey” to all beer drinkers.
In reality it’s a bit ridiculous.
I should hold my hands up at the start and admit that it’s a concept that I’ve bandied about in the past, without really thinking of what it entails.
The Concept Of The Craft Beer Journey
We often think of the beer journey something like this: You discover flavourful beer in whatever form that might be (more on “gateway beers” here). Then you progress to new styles you haven’t experienced before such as IPAs. Then you chasing “bigger” beers such as DIPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Then you book a holiday to Belgium via San Diego.
Okay, that’s a very simplified version of the curve on which we place craft beer drinkers. And even without my reductive phrasing of it, it’s ridiculous. It just can’t be applied across the board.
There are many beer drinkers for whom this just isn’t relevant. There are plenty of people who are content with finding a new beer and sticking with it. Or finding a new style they like and buying it by the case every couple of weeks.
To move past pale ales and golden ales onto IPAs and porters and then onto sours isn’t the natural progression we sometimes see it as.
Variety Of Consumers
My one most strongly held belief about the future growth of beer is that there is room for variety. There’s a place for the person making only barrel-aged sours and there’s room for the large, independent national brand packaging accessible beers into 24 packs.
With this growth in variety will come many new customers and many will lean towards the latter option. If someone develops a taste for 4 Pines Kolsch and starts buying cases of that instead of cases of VB, then we have a new craft beer drinker.
If that person continues to drink the same beer for the next twenty years, all power to them.
The Beer Journey: Relevant If Applied Correctly
While I don’t necessarily think the concept of the craft beer journey does any harm we should definitely question how liberally we apply it.
If our natural inclination is to place beer drinkers on curve then we, as fellow beer drinkers, can lapse into snobbery. Meanwhile breweries can miss potential opportunities to learn from customer behaviour and gain insights into what people want.
The journey of discovering new beers is a great one but not every beer drinker is going to be that way inclined. As we think about the future of the industry and where opportunities for growth can be found, we’d be fools to think of every potential customer as sitting somewhere on the same curve.The journey of discovering new beers is a great one but not every beer drinker is going to be that way inclined. Click To Tweet
Just as there’s great diversity in the type of beers being produced, there’s great diversity in the type of people drinking them.