My friends may laugh when they read my thoughts on beer since I’m not a huge fan. But after traveling around the country and noticing that many of the cool hangouts in our downtowns are Microbreweries, it made me curious about the story behind this recent surge in breweries that seek character locations. There is a common thread between the recent craft beer craze and resurging downtowns. As I dissected the movement even more, I realized there exist underlying fundamentals of the craft beer phenomenon shaping the craft beer industry that are allowing our downtowns to return as well.
Craft beer demonstrates a market demand for unique qualities over price. In the book Small Giants, Fritz Maytag decided if he were going to focus on this unique brew at Anchor Brewing Co. he didn’t want to mass produce this special blend. He decided, rather than focus on growing his output of beer, he would focus on profit margin growth. His specialty craft beer would only have a limited number because he felt the quality would drop if he had to expand operations. Downtowns are unique locations and in limited supply. Downtowns can be imitated, but not duplicated because of their unique locations and history. The focus like the craft brew should therefore be on the quality of product and not quantity. Our suburbs and strip malls can be reproduced over and over again, but the unique nature of downtowns can succeed by focusing on quality.
The local nature is part of what makes craft beers have such a unique taste. Names like Bold City in Jacksonville, FL and Lexington Ave. Brewery in Asheville, NC are examples of how a city can reflect the unique character of the beer. Our downtowns have their unique flavors as well. The small nuance and style that makes a craft beer so unique and special is similar to what makes our downtowns great. Downtowns have their own special flavors in their great public spaces, winding alleyways and one-of-a-kind architectural styles. We are enticed by a craft beer like we are drawn to our downtowns …we know we feel a part of their unique flavor.
Craft beer is an experience. When someone describes a craft beer, more often than not they begin with the story of who made it or the history of where it’s made. That story, often printed right on the label, is part of the experience. What downtown is without a great story? Many times, like the old breweries themselves, the story was hidden until someone uncovered and restored it. Like craft breweries, successful downtowns are those who establish enticing stories—ones their customers love to learn and retell as part of the experience.
It’s a focus on the details and quality, unique taste and cool stories that has led to the growing number of craft beer companies. The same qualities that make craft beers so appealing are also shared by many of our downtowns: limited number, authentic experiences with one of a kind story. For these reasons downtowns are craft made. So while supplies are limited, please invest in one today!