As I sit here enjoying my Miller’s Toll imperial stout from Raleigh Brewing, I’m thinking about our local beer economy. The proliferation of local brewers and bottleshops is both fantastic and concerning. It’s great that we have more choices and more opportunities to sample our local brewmasters creations but at the same time, as in all businesses, there is a breaking point as to just how many of the same business can exist in a given geographic area. Take bottleshops for example. In a 5 mile radius of my house, there are at least 5 locally owned bottleshops, a Total Wine, a Whole Foods (with an excellent craft beer selection), and a Lowe’s food store with a Beer Den. That’s doesn’t count the local grocery stores who make an attempt at carrying local craft beer. I’m not complaining mind you; I’m just concerned that one of these days the craft beer wave we’ve all been riding will crest and there will be a natural consolidation. Some will close, some will merge. On the brewery side, North Carolina seems to be one of the nationwide hot spots for craft beer. At some point, I expect to see a similar contraction. Owning a brewery isn’t cheap and there is a decent capital investment involved. Money must be made. As real examples, there have been a couple of local restaurants with a focus on beer that have closed. The customers were there…..just not enough of them to make it profitable.
I’m not sounding any imminent warning bells; what I do see are the warning signs of a saturated marketplace. We must continue to support our local brewers and bottleshops.
OK…..back to my Miller’s Toll. My thanks to the fine people at Raleigh Brewing for their incredible product.