It took two couples and a lot of beer, but now any homebrewer who has ever thought of getting into the craft beer market has either a guide or a cautionary tale.
“Brew Your Business: The Ultimate Craft Beer Playbook” (Rowman & Littlefield, November 2017) was co-authored by Karen and Sean McGrath and Regina and M. Todd Luttrell G’09. While Karen McGrath and Regina Luttrell G’07 have teamed up to write a book before – that one was about millennials – this time they worked with their craft beer-loving husbands on a subject that resonated with them all.
The idea for the book grew out of a discussion about the craft brewing industry and higher education. Dr. Karen McGrath is a professor of communications at The College of Saint Rose and Dr. Regina Luttrell is an assistant professor in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
“The industry is poised for continued growth,” Karen McGrath says. “Educational institutions must continue to consider how the craft beer industry can provide students opportunities to develop and hone transferable skills and knowledge, from practical skills in science, business, communications, and graphic design to liberal arts foci in history, culture, critical thinking and more.”
But the book is not about how a bridge can be built between colleges and craft brewers. Instead, it is a very practical guide to brewing beer and then marketing it, punctuated throughout with “Talking from the Tap!” interviews with craft brewers, both local and nationwide.
Mike Wenzel, Helderberg Mountain Brewing Company’s head brewer, allowed the group a close look at his brewery (where Sean McGrath has worked as an assistant brewer), and Devon Hamilton, head brewer at Paradox Brewery in Schroon Lake provided local insight. Reaching wide across the industry, the book also includes interviews with brewers such as Billy Pyatt, co-owner of Catawba Brewing Co. in North Carolina, and Laura Ulrich, a small batch brewer at Stone Brewing in Southern California and president of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry.
According to the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade association, craft beer production volume increased 5 percent during the first half of 2017. This shows a slowing down in growth. In 2013, there was an 18 percent rise in volume. Yet this summer, the Brewers Association reported there were 5,562 operating breweries in the United States, an increase of 906 operations over the previous year. Meanwhile, 2,739 breweries are in the planning stages.
While this might give ambitious homebrewers pause before they run out and buy a bunch of commercial fermentation tanks, the authors say there is room in the market.
“This movement is definitely firmly established and becoming more commonplace by the day,” Regina Luttrell says. “It’s difficult to visit anywhere and not experience the fruits of the craft beer industry. With more and more brands becoming mainstream, there is certainly an explosion of growth yet to come.”
Todd Luttrell says increased hops production will allow smaller and micro establishments to flourish due to the local availability.
“The cool thing about this industry is that it only takes access to a small farm to really promote the growth of a specific recipe, or expansion into new flavors,” he says. “Hops should be no different, and with the accessibility of the New York state markets to ‘hop friendly’ agricultural growth, New York state should be a natural gateway for more breweries.”
The authors will be guests on WAMC with Joe Donahue at 11:30 a.m. January 10.