I know this isn't a new question, but I've been thinking about it for a while. Some people I know just seem to like the taste of craft beer as opposed to beer that is mass produced by huge companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Carlsberg, and China Resources Enterprise. These four companies sell about half the beer consumed in the whole world. Their combined market share is about 51%. For some reason, large numbers of people are abandoning them in favor of small, local breweries. I'm going to give you my best theories I've come up with so far for why this is happening.
Flavor & Quality
Flavor is a big part of why people drink beer - if one wanted to get drunk, there are other alcoholic products that work must faster and more efficiently. People drink beer because they like the taste, and craft breweries are all about making beer that tastes a lot better than the mainstream brands - or that's their goal at least. It's kind of like your local hamburger place versus a McDonalds. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but you get my point.
Beer that's brewed by a small company in a person's own town is often considered higher quality than if it's produced in some industrial complex thousands of miles away. It's like going to the Farmer's Market versus going to Kroger to buy vegetables.
My point is that people perceive craft beer to be better tasting, higher quality, and therefore more appealing. It may or may not be any better than any other brand of beer.
Is Craft Beer Worth the Hype?
I like to call these people "beer snobs" - the ones who will only drink craft beer. It's like saying, "Oh we're too sophisticated for the mass produced stuff like Bud Light, Miller Light, etc." Most of us picture a specific demographic of people who drink those beers - specifically white, redneck males from the South. A lot of people I know think Bud Light drinkers mainly live in trailer parks, have a pit bull in the front yard on a huge chain, and drive a 4X4. While not incorrect, the idea that one is too high class to consume a certain brand of beer is nonsense, and it's never a good idea to elevate oneself above someone else based on social status, income level, place of residence, etc.
What makes craft beer so different? Is it the fact that it's brewed in a smaller building? Or is it the size of the brewing container itself? If I had to guess why people like craft beer so much, I would say that it's the number of limited edition, seasonal flavors of beer craft breweries debut each year. They can brew it with all sorts of things such as: honey, orange peels, prickly pear, cactus, etc., and people are going to buy it because they want to know what it tastes like. Everybody knows what Bud Light tastes like because it's always the same but pomegranate honeysuckle summer ale? Most beer aficionados would just have to try that.
Prego, the spaghetti sauce maker, did a similar thing. They weren't selling many cans of marinara when they only had one flavor, but now they have like twenty different kinds of prego. It almost needs its own isle in Kroger. People love it.
Breweries Are Popping Up Everywhere
Athens Georgia used to only have one craft brewery - Terrapin. Then there was Creature Comforts, Copper Creek, and Southern Brewing Company (SBC). Soon there will be Normaltown Artisanal Brewery. (I think I got the order right on those) How many breweries can a town like Athens sustain? That's five different beer manufacturing companies. From what people have told me, that's not even a high number. Other towns, in places such as North Carolina for example, have even more breweries.
Craft Beer Consumption is Increasing
In the past ten or so years, independent "craft" breweries have just taken off. Here are some statistics that show the market share of independent brewery sales. It's about twelve percent of the overall beer market right now. That's probably going to increase as more breweries open their doors in the coming years. These breweries provide much needed jobs for people in small towns with struggling economies. Support your local brewery!
If you've never gotten into craft beer, now is a perfect time to start!