We break from your regularly scheduled craft beer-centric business news and insight to look at what some beverage industry deep-thinkers believe is the next “craft beer boom” — craft spirits.
Now, let’s be clear, craft beer still is the current “craft beer boom,” and doesn’t really show signs that it is slowing in its world domination trajectory. On average, a new brewery opens its doors every single day in the U.S.; craft brewers now account for one out of every 10 beers sold in the U.S.; higher learning institutions are adding brewing minors, certificates and even four-year programs.
As civilizations of Big Beer drinkers have fallen in the wake of our craft beer conquerors, the taste landscape has been altered as a result. Craft beer’s ongoing success has the created opportunities for like-minded travelers in adjacent craft beverage industries, specifically craft spirits — or so thinks Steven Earles is the CEO of Portland-based Eastside Distilling.
“Craft beer completely disrupted what was once believed to be a very traditional business,” Earles said. “We believe craft spirits will follow the same path as craft beer. It’s basically a slam dunk, according to the data… and our overall hunch.”
In 2008, when Earles’ distillery launched, there were only 210 craft distillers in America. Now, there are more than 700. Whiskey and bourbon continues its rapid growth. Helping to fuel this recent growth, women now represent 37 percent of the whiskey drinkers in the U.S., compared to just 15 percent in the 1990s.
And stories continue to unfold regarding possible bourbon shortages due to high demand. Innovations in distilling methods to create new flavor profiles are taking charge. Earles’ distillery uses locally sourced barrels and ingredients for their infused whiskeys and rums.
“Some states like Washington and Oregon – where we are based – have strict laws regarding quality control on distilled spirits,” Earles says. “We’re proud to be from the northwest and that we use locally sourced ingredients.”
Earles discusses America’s growing taste for quality spirits, and what craft may mean for the future of the liquor industry.