While I'm pointing out good pieces, check this one by "Uncle Jack" Curtin. Jack's done a very nice piece for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News on the wave of good new beer bars in the western suburban reaches of Philadelphia. It's more than your standard "there's a good bar here with this stuff on tap and food on the menu, then there's another bar here with this stuff on tap and food on the menu" kind of story that all too often passes for "beer writing" (hey, I'm guilty, sometimes it's what the editor wants). Jack does more than tell you about these places, he tells you why they've opened and why they're succeeding. The piece is called, appropriately, "The Tipping Point."
Jack's put his finger on something I've been thinking about (and writing about). Craft beer has reached a level of sales, interest, and visibility that could be likened to a critical mass. As it moves more into cool bars, restaurants (both indie and chain), and supermarkets, it's going to be in front of more and more people as a viable, respectable alternative, and more and more of them are going to make that choice. The toughest problems for the industry in the next five to ten years are going to be keeping up with demand -- expanding production fast enough to make the beer that people want -- and getting access to the market in the face of continued wholesaler consolidation that often makes getting beer on the shelf a business of 'Eliza on the ice,' hopping from wholesaler to wholesaler as they merge, go under, and pop up.
There's one more problem looming, but that's the topic for the May Buzz on my website. It could be the worst one of the lot, and it's one we've seen before. See you there, next week.