Craft Beer and Craft-Inspired Business
The Experience Economy is thriving here in Duluth and it’s seen a substantial boost as the excitement surrounding craft beer spreads to other crafts and craft-inspired businesses.
Connecting Brewery Growth with Community Growth
By Dave Grandmaison
According to the Brewers Association there are more breweries operating now than at any time since the 1870s. In September of 2015 the Brewers Association reported that the United States boasted over 4,000 breweries – and is probably now surpassing the historic peak of 4,131 set in 1873.
Most of today’s breweries are locally owned and in many cases the breweries use local ingredients – thereby spreading the benefits of the craft beer renaissance to their communities. Without a doubt, these local breweries are helping promote growth in Craft-Inspired Business.
While the loyalty of local businesses and communities to locally produced goods is no surprise, trends in the tourism industry indicate that tourists seek a stronger connection to the communities that they visit and are looking for a more holistic experience. It’s no longer good enough to see the sights and hit the standard tourist destinations. People want to be immersed in the community – eating local cuisine, drinking local beer and spirits, buying locally-crafted goods, and connecting with the artisans who make the products they’re interested in purchasing. This trend has been aptly named the “Experience Economy”.
The Experience Economy and Craft-Inspired Business
Given the shift towards this Experience Economy Model, the craft beer industry is poised to reap the benefits of an accelerated appreciation for locally crafted goods. In previous posts we’ve described what we’ve called the “Brewery Tourist” and we’ve seen first-hand how diverse this market really is.
Some Brewery Tourists have studied the history of beer. Some are home brewers with an extensive knowledge of the brewing process. Others know very little about the history of craft brewing or even how beer is made. Men… women… young and old… the demographic is much broader than originally thought. As a result, we see a lot of opportunity for Craft-Inspired Businesses to create a positive feedback for the local craft beer scene.
Whatever the ultimate motivations for seeking out a craft beer experience, the craft beer scene is exploding and brewery-related businesses are springing up in response. Local companies like Brewfully Inspired make all-natural dog treats out of the spent grains typically discarded after the brewing process. Similarly, local ranchers collect these grains and use them to feed their livestock. A company named Suds Beer Soap uses brewing ingredients to make soap. Meanwhile, food trucks and a pop-up bakery named Zenith Bread Project provide delicious treats for taproom visitors in Duluth.
Companies like The Duluth Experience provide Brewery Tourists with fun and educational experiences that immerse them in the craft beer scene, and provide a context for the impact that craft beer on the local community. Guests go behind-the-scenes so they can meet the brewers, explore the breweries, sample their latest creations, and learn about the process of making beer. The breweries and restaurants that they visit during the tour and the stories told along the way give visitors a sense of place and help reaffirm the craft-inspired identity of the local community.
Upshot: Craft Beer Connects Local Communities
The craft beer scene is likely to continue its expansion and we expect to see continued growth of Craft-Inspired Business across the United States. At the local level there is no longer room to doubt the importance of craft beer in a community’s economic and tourism portfolio. The North Shore is a great example with Duluth, Two Harbors, and Grand Marais benefiting from the brewery tourism scene.
We believe that the Experience Economy and the Craft-Inspired Business will continue to help connect people to the products and services they consume in a more meaningful way. The result is an informed consumer with a more complete understanding of the processes and people creating their favorite stuff. The overall goal of this approach is to expand the reach of local companies in a way that converts visitors into spokespeople and connects our community to new markets.