There’s been no stopping the craft beer industry over the last decade. It’s gone from an emerging industry to a major force in the American economy. Breweries that were largely unknown a few years back are now powerhouses and many of their founders are now rock stars. And with this kind of activity comes a new phenomenon …the rise of the Event Beer.
So what makes a beer’s release an event? Well it doesn’t normally happen overnight, that’s for sure. It starts with a brewery honing its reputation quietly, delivering quality year after year, and eventually making a name for itself. Then that brewery delivers that one beer.
That “one beer” can be any style – but it’s usually something limited & rare. But it can’t just be rare and it can’t just be good – IT’S GOT TO BE GREAT. So great that you’ll spend all your money on it, that you’ll pay any price for it! So great that its fans can’t stop talking about it – they’ve no choice but to spread the word.
Those words are first passed among friends whose opinions are trusted to fans and industry insiders who then become apostles. National buzz builds and builds – now everybody wants it. Demand reaches critical mass – and no one can get enough!
Ironically, the birth of an Event Beer is usually recognized after the fact. It’s ordained when it’s no longer available and its fans are now forced to wait till next year’s release. That’s when mythology takes over – and the beer becomes enshrined – and an Event Beer is born.
Once a beer becomes an Event Beer, the coverage of its release moves well beyond the craft beer community. It’s now mainstream news – and traditional outlets, major newspapers, and networks all want a piece of it. CNBC was all over Black Friday’s Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout release last fall and everybody’s covering Bell’s Hopslam rollout.
And all this coverage feeds the frenzy…Lines form hours before a retailer is scheduled to open and Event Beers sell out before noon. Stories spread about the lucky, and about those who were not. And all this fuels even more myth-making, sending the beers pricing on the craft beer black market through the roof!
Once enshrined, an Event Beer can become branded and ironically lead to spin-off events…Festivals and parties might accompany an Event Beer’s release. Three Floyd’s Dark Lord Day is just such an event. This once-a-year, brewery-based festival was built around the release of their most acclaimed event beer,Dark Lord Imperial Stout. Dark Lord Day, which always takes placeon the last Saturday in April, is held at the brewery’s brewpub in Munster, Indiana, attracts attendees from all across America, and is always sold out!
Are some Event Beers overrated? Can an Event Beer become “less than it was” over time? Sure, it can happen, but most times not. American craft beer lovers are pretty passionate about what they love and just as quick to call bullshit. Most brewers get it when they’ve done something special. It’s wonderful to have created something so successful. They take pride in their art and are careful to tend to it.
So what’s the future for Event Beers?
Well they are now very much a part of today’s craft beer industry and there will only be more of them going forward. Right now there are many brilliant beers out there, laying low, waiting to be found…And they will be discovered because the American craft beer fan has a seemingly insatiable appetite for the new, the untried, and the soon-to-be celebrated!