Beer, Beer, & Better Beer | HopCat

Beer, Beer, & Better Beer

Here are the biggest craft beer stories from 2017
By Troy Reimink, BarFly/HopCat Webmaster | December 27, 2017

The end of another year has us a little wistful. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and so on. Before we launch into another big year – during which HopCat will be celebrating its 10th anniversary, by the way – let’s take a look back on some of the biggest headlines from the craft beer world in 2017

Continued growth

Hard to deny it was another solid year for the craft beer industtry. Despite some signs of a slowdown overall, steady growth continued – craft beer for the first time accounted for more than 10 percent of the total beer market in the United States as of 2016, a trend that continued in 2017. In another all-time first, the number of craft breweries in the U.S. topped 6,000. [Paste Magazine]

The Empire strikes back 

The major narrative in our segment of the industry, not surprisingly, is ongoing tension between craft brewers and their macro counterparts. Anheuser-Busch InBev continued its rampage through the craft market. Its most notable acquisition this year was Wicked Weed. This has led to a Resistance against the Empire throughout the galaxy, most visibly through a boycott against so-called “impostor” beer brands. (Hey, we didn’t say these were all happy stories.) [Business Insider

The Brewers Association trade group weighed in over the summer when it introduced a certification label for independent craft brewers. [] Somewhat less seriously, the BA launched the Take Craft Back campaign, a joke effort to raise the $213 billion that would enable craft brewers to buy AB InBev. [Men’s Journal] But it’s encouraging that more restaurants and bars are kicking Big Beer off their tap lists and going all-craft. Not that anyone's keeping score, but we were sort of ahead of this curve. [Washington Post]

Good for the community

An underappreciated aspect of craft brewing is how instrumental it can be in reviving the economies of city neighborhoods and small-towns. A study of the area around HopCat’s birthplace, Grand Rapids, found that breweries here generated an additional $7 million in spending. [Curbed]

Tax breaks, mixed feelings

The final version of the GOP's tax-overhaul bill contains a provision that cuts the tax rate in half for small beer producers. Such welcome tax relief from an otherwise unpopular bill has put a lot of craft brewers – most of whom fall on the progressive side of the political spectrum – in a somewhat uncomfortable position. [Brew Studs

Canning is big business

It’s not exactly breaking news, but more and more craft brewers are selling their beers in cans instead of, or in addition to, bottles. Growth has been steady in this realm since about 2011. But more recent data points to an interesting trend – that smaller, newer breweries have been quicker to embrace the trend than more established ones. [Brewers Association]

Brewers are good people

This was a rough year in a lot of ways, but there were plenty of reminders that the people who make our beer are making the world a better place in other ways, too. Here’s a story about craft breweries in Las Vegas that helped collect donations after the horrific mass shooting at a country music festival. Here’s a story about breweries in Houston raising money to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Here’s a story about craft breweries organizing fundraising efforts for those affected by the wildfires in California.

So, 2017 might have sucked, but at least there was good beer to get us through it, and good people making it.

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'We deserve better': HopCat Founder Mark Sellers criticizes Enbridge pipeline deal
By Troy Reimink, BarFly/HopCat Webmaster | December 18, 2017
Line 5, Sustainability

HopCat and its affiliated restaurants are among the dozens of businesses throughout the Great Lakes states that have joined environmental activists in calling for Michigan to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline.

Mark Sellers, the owner and founder of our parent company, BarFly Ventures, wrote a guest column that ran over the weekend in Crain’s Detroit Business. He repeated his opposition to the pipeline and criticized Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for cutting a recent deal with the massive energy company that “falls short of protecting the Great Lakes, and those who depend on them.”

The pipeline flows under the Straits of Mackinac, the waterway that divides Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas, pumping some 23 million gallons of oil per day. The pipeline, Sellers points out, is 65 years old and in poor condition. A spill could be catastrophic for Michigan residents and businesses. 

“If this pipeline leaks, we would see an absolute torpedoing of the Michigan tourism industry for years. In 2014, tourism generated $22.8 billion in direct spending, $2.4 billion in state and local taxes, and more than 214,000 jobs. A leak would cause the loss of tens or even hundreds of thousands of jobs. And guess what? Pipelines leak all the time. This is not some remote, one-in-a-million probability.”

The column is particularly critical of the Snyder administration’s deal with Enbridge, which does little beyond requiring the company to build a protective tunnel around the pipeline. A state advisory panel later recommended shutting down the line entirely.


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HopCat co-founder discusses 'un-chain' philosophy on Mashed Podcast
Troy Reimink, BarFly/HopCat webmaster | December 8, 2017
craft beer

If you’re interested in a peek behind the HopCat curtain, our head of Food, Beverage and Cultural Innovation, Garry Boyd, recent sat down for an interview with the Mash Podcast to discuss how our restaurant family – or “un-chain” – has evolved along with the craft beer industry.

Reflecting on HopCat’s beginnings, Boyd acknowledged that the idea of a beer bar focusing exclusively on craft breweries was an outside-the-box idea as recently as a decade ago. “When we started HopCat in 2008 and Mark Sellers – the owner, my boss – told me his plan not to sell Bud/Miller/Coors, I might have been the first person to tell him he was a genius, because everybody else told him he was going to fail epically.”

The title of the episode is “Scaling a Brewpub,” and much of Boyd’s discussion with host Zane DeVault focused on how HopCat has expanded its operation across the Midwest as the craft beer market grew explosively. A respect and passion for craft beer, he said, has enabled HopCat to maintain its guiding philosophies while responsibly joining the craft beer culture of the communities where we’ve opened restaurants.

“We’ve always tried to be stewards for craft beer, first and foremost,” Boyd explained. “We want to be a good resource for everybody when they think of craft beer. I want the brewers to want us to have their beer on draft because they trust us.”

The conversation also addresses some anxieties that have crept into the industry, such as whether craft brewing has reached a saturation point, or if the landscape is too crowded for new breweries to succeed. What ultimately determines success or failure, Boyd said, is whether the beer itself is any good.

“I don’t think there’s a bubble for craft beer. I just think that as there’s less and less shelf space and we’re cutting the pie smaller and smaller for everybody, it better be some good pie," he said. "You can make crappy beer and go out of business, and that’s not going to change. But I think as long as the beer’s good, as long as there’s an authenticity to what’s going on, I think you’ll find that there’s a home for it.”

You can stream other Mash Podcast episodes here.

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