Craft beer’s blueprint for growth
Craft beer could be a “model for helping the middle class,” said Noah Smith. In 2009, there were fewer than 1,600 U.S. craft breweries; today, there are more than 5,000, employing nearly 130,000 people. Small brewers’ share of the U.S. beer market has been on a steady climb, more than doubling to 12 percent between 2011 and 2016. “These gains came even as overall beer sales were flat, meaning big corporate brewers are in decline.” This is great economic news for a few reasons. Brewing has relatively low barriers to entry, and brewers don’t need to be in a tech hub or have expensive training to succeed. To that end, craft beer can allow “enterprising, hardworking” people to “bootstrap themselves to the middle or upper-middle class.” So how can policymakers help replicate this success? In brewers’ case, “government put its thumb on the scale for smaller companies,” with many states making exceptions for crafters to sell beer directly to consumers in taprooms and outlawing retailers from selling favorable shelf spots, creating space for upstarts. That approach could work across the food-and-drink industry, as well as in clothing and furniture. With some targeted regulatory help, small businesses that create small-batch, high-quality products could, like craft beer, prove a lucrative “path forward” for the middle class.