Sixty Percent of Craft Beer Sucks

Sixty percent of craft beer sucks and half of the breweries in America are doomed. Those are strong words, and I’m not sure I agree, but I would expect nothing less than something so incendiary from John Taffer.

The boisterous, hot-headed host of TV’s Bar Rescue often brings people to tears. John Taffer is a bit of a blowhard, a bit of a bully, but he’s usually right. There’s no denying that when it comes to onsite alcohol service, he knows what he’s talking about.

Cheers Magazine recently published an interview with John Taffer in which the bar guru shared some thoughts about craft beer. He made some good points, and I agree with some of what he said, though his words may not be the kind of candy-coated platitudes that most beer lovers want to hear.

“I find the whole craft-beer craze fascinating,” said Taffer. “A lot of the core beer brands in America — Budweiser, Coors, etc. — have taken a real hit from it. Some of these brands, they’ve never lost market share in their entire existence. They’re scared by it. So they panic and turn executives over.”

Personally, I care much less about the impact Anheuser-Busch’s meddling has on Big Beer executives and care much more about what happens to people who work for companies like Elysian Brewing. Taffer is right, though. Big Beer is scared and they are panicking by throwing money at the problem. Who cares if some Senior Vice President at MillerCoors is in jeopardy of losing his $1 million job.

Beyond that, Taffer commented on the craft beer industry itself, not only asserting that most craft beer sucks, and that far too much of it is brewed by amateurs, but that the industry is getting invaded by carpetbaggers who see craft beer as an investment but lack the love of beer that has thus far driven the industry’s growth and success. In his opinion, 60 percent of craft beer sucks and half of the breweries in America are doomed.

I’m curious if people agree. Here’s the rest of what Taffer said about beer in the Cheers article.

“Craft beer has created a culture, not a trend. A trend grabs market share and then disappears and gives it back. A culture grabs market share and then keeps it. The craft-beer culture isn’t going anywhere in America.”

“That said, I think that about 60 percent of craft beer basically sucks. I’ve been to a lot of the facilities. They’re not exactly clean. They’re rookie-run. The problem is that people are now looking at craft beer as an investment opportunity. They’re getting into it to make money. Many people don’t get into it for the love of making beer. Of course, that’s not how it began. Jim Koch founded Boston Beer because he loves to make beer. But today, it’s much more in the investment space.”

“That’s why I think there’s going to be a wash out in craft beer over the next two years. Half of the craft breweries are going to disappear. And the word “craft” will become known more for spirits.”

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  1. He’s right. I love Washington beer and I think we’re a top 5 beer state, but of the 150+ Washington breweries I’ve been to, the beer at at least 2/3 of them is totally mediocre homebrew or downright bad.

  2. One person’s opinion means just that, nothing more and nothing less. He may be right on those lurking in the weeds for an investment opportunity with no interest in Craft Beer. Business acumen would indicate that there will be a fall out as in any new venture. The customer will determine who succeeds and who fails. Unless he has smiled beer from all the craft breweries his statement regarding the per cent of bad beers is meaningless. Happy sampling.

  3. He may be right. But for every one that closes (or sells out) two more will take its place. I would advise him to keep an eye on the homebrewer community. If their interest fades in making beer because homebrew v.2.0 is so easily accessible and has sufficient ongoing variety and experimentation, new small breweries will stop opening as fast.

    Also the culture he talks about is totally into the scruffy look for their venues. No need for oak and brass fancy pants brewpubs to enjoy a good neighborhood pint. That kind of place is not as attractive to investors who are coming from the restaurant mentality.

    Good beer, a food truck and some live music will be the backbone of this industry for quite a while – not forever – but more than two years.

  4. Hmmmm, while he makes some interesting points, I have a real problem with the effort to judge other people’s tastes. What I find so exciting about the craft beer movement is how it has made it economically feasible to experiment with new flavors and to lure new palates into the market. Some experiments will fail miserably. Others will be great, but I won’t like them at all. I don’t like Bud and Coors, but I don’t disrespect them for the product they put out. I hate them for the way they do business (and have since post-prohibition). But, if people like their product, I don’t judge their palate. I also don’t judge those who like odd fruit beers and other experiments I don’t enjoy drinking. I love that the new market the craft brewing movement created allows this kind of diversity. I don’t think I enjoy more than 40-50% of what is available. But, I still have enough options any evening to never be bored. And I think it is so for people with very different palates than my own. And I have the option to challenge my own palate in a way I simply didn’t have 30 years ago. So, I hope he doesn’t see the fact he doesn’t like 60% of the craft beer out there as proof that the industry is waning, or that it has been a waste of our time.

  5. This doesn’t surprise me. Most of the good breweries will survive hopefully, but I wouldn’t mind if a lot of the craft breweries making blonde ale+IPA+dark ale with goofy names went belly up. I love craft beer, and craft breweries. In Seattle at least, there are a lot of them, they’re not all good, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they went out of business.

  6. I think 60% is too high, but then again he’s been to more than I have. My experience is the really shady ones go away fairly quickly. I’ll still take a good homebrewed or microbrewed beer over In-Bev any day.

  7. Brought to you by InBev. They are shaking in their boots because they don’t know how to make beer. I went to Lumberjack Brewing today in Hobart, Wa. You have to take a dirt road to get there. They have virtually no advertising, the place was packet. Lumberjack makes a jalapeno ale that is spectacular. Their Scotch Ale is really smooth, I tried to get a growler of it but there wasn’t enough left. John Taffer has no credibility, the micro revolution is just starting.

  8. “John Taffer is a bit of a blowhard, a bit of a bully, but he’s usually right.”

    Yup, yup, nope. At least not when it comes to beer. As connoisseur of garbage television, I’ve watched a lot of Bar Rescue. His sole focus is on maximizing profits. Part of that is the simple things, don’t be rude, cleanliness, consistency, don’t have a bunch of shit on the walls – that stuff makes sense. But when it comes to beer? Taffer always insists that beer be served as close to 32 degrees as possible.

    In order to maximize keg profit, he almost always installs glycol chilled lines and new ice cold beer towers. Not because it’s better for the beer, but because colder beer makes less foam and maximizes profits per keg.

    He even did one in Philly once where he was serving Left Hand Milk Stout at 32 degrees. He brought in a “beer expert” who worked for a local distributor to set up that beer program. WTF.

    The guy is smart about a lot of the business side of running a bar, which is why he loves spirits. That’s where the money is. But he doesn’t know shit about craft beer and doesn’t care because that’s not where the money is.

    Anyone who thinks this guy is thinking about the consumer should watch the New Orleans episode where he rebrands the Green Turtle log island ice tea into the HAND GRENADE! Profits up 22% in the next 6 months. Because quality.

  9. Although I agree mostly with what Taffer says, I’m not sure about the percentages. I agree that so many breweries open with the notion of making it big.
    Our brewery opened 4 years ago, not for the money, but for the passion of creating this craft. I believe that those who are passionate about the craft will showcase this in their product and will rise while others trickle away.

  10. Greg Koch said in an interview once (and this is paraphrased) that he makes the beer he wants to drink, and people will either buy it or not, but that it would take the soul out of what he was doing as a brewer if he succumbed to the criticisms and whims of the consumers. That to me is the beauty of craft beer. I bet for every beer Taffer finds unworthy, there’s someone who tells their friends it’s the best beer they’ve ever had.

    Surely not every brewery that springs up is going to thrive. There may be room enough still for more breweries of the same ilk as Dogfish Head, Boston Beer Company, and Sierra Nevada, but as uneducated as I may be on the business side of things I feel the future of craft beer is the local neighborhood microbrewery. Obviously quality will speak for itself. Not every home brewer is destined to open a brewery – no matter how much we dream of it – but it is the wellspring feeding the American beer revolution.

  11. I agree with a lot of what he is saying. I don’t think his percentages are accurate. I think that a lot of craft beer has become a trend instead of culture and there are a lot of amateurs opening brew pubs and breweries. The trendy amatuers will be weeded out as craft beer returns more to the culture. I think that just like the restaurant industry there is a tendency to stray away from perfecting the basics and too much effort put into creating something avant garde.

  12. I’m not sure I get the whole carpetbagger theory. The small breweries I go to when I Ask the owner what it costs to start a brewery it isn’t cheap and Most of them invest a lot of their money because they love beer and have been home brewers for decades. I have yet to come across a brewer who is rich. They are like artists and musicians. And they love to collaborate and share with each other, Its not a competition or a Monopoly. You would be kidding yourself if you thought it was a way to make big money. Well maybe a few of the older craft breweries that have been bought up by big beer But I think that will be a road to nowhere for big breweries . The growth has only began for small craft breweries and a lot of them just like being local and being true to their art.

  13. There seems to be an implicit notion that only those who “love” beer make good beer, and those who open a brewery for money or status or something do not.

    This ignores the unfortunate fact that there are no small number of brewers and breweries out there who I believe sincerely love beer, but are sadly terrible at making it.

  14. No one likes all craft beers. Some just taste better than others. But in my opinion, 100% of assembly-line watered down corporate beer is crap.

  15. I can see it now, some brewery will take up the challenge and call their beer “sucky”; perhaps a whole series of beer marketed as sucky… its too simplistic to say that I don’t care about John Taffer, but I don’t; and have no use for his opinion, but I am the 17th person to write a reply to this blog entry. This is the type of thing that motivates people to send in comments…Press is press, right?
    John Taffer has made up his mind, regardless of what you and I think or drink. But I do wonder if he has spent any time out here in the state of Washington…as a general rule of thumb most brewers I have met here, are a tough and self critical lot, who when pressed just might agree with the idea that they have brewed or put out for sale sucky beer…if you really don’t like a beer, some brewers just might want to hear that, and it is something you can talk to an actual brewer about; which becomes an option once you become a regular at a local brewery.

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