First brewed in China some 9,000 years ago, beer was a part of Colonial life in the United States and until recently had evolved to two major companies, with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors controlling nearly 90% of American beer production.
But according to The Atlantic magazine, something strange and extraordinary is happening, and each of the Tri-Cities is part of it, to the point that Sen. Jon Lundberg of Bristol is sponsoring legislation in support of it.
An innovative disruption of the beer industry is underway. The Atlantic reports that between 2008 and 2016, the number of craft brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120% or some 70,000. And average beer prices have grown even as overall beer consumption is declining.
“So while Americans are drinking less beer than they did in the 2000s, they’re often paying more for a superior product,” The Atlantic reports. “Meanwhile, the best-selling beers in the country are all in steep decline as are their producers. Between 2007 and 2016, shipments from five major brewers — Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst and Diageo which owns Guinness — fell 14%.”
There now are dozens of mini breweries and craft beer outlets in Northeast Tennessee, and this new industry has seen double-digit growth as consumers are introduced to more fuller-flavored beers and interesting flavors.
During 2018, more than a thousand new breweries opened, and there are now more than 7,300 regional breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries in the U.S., according to multiple news sources.
They are successful because of a different marketing strategy, offering products that compete on the basis of quality and diversity instead of low price and advertising, while packaging in colorful cans with innovative product names rather than in traditional bottles.
But in Tennessee, craft brewers are prevented by state law from self-distributing their brews outside the county where it is made. Lundberg would like to change that to expand opportunities for craft brewers to distribute their products in the region.
Lundberg is sponsoring legislation to allow craft beer makers to sell direct without having to go through a distributor. He said the legislation would change the law to allow brewers to self-distribute their products within a 100-mile radius, as is the case with wineries.
“Craft breweries are small businesses, and the state has limited where they can sell their products,” he said. “I would like to level the playing field.”
Says The Atlantic, “Goliaths are tumbling, Davids are ascendant, and beer is one of the unambiguously happy stories in the U.S. economy.”
We’ll drink to that, and to Sen. Lundberg’s success.