Aurora Ale & Lager Co. 2

Aurora Ale & Lager Co. in Ledyard.


Sorry, I got ahead of myself.

Every time I write about Cayuga County's craft beer scene — and I've had a lot to write about lately — I get some form of the same question.

When's the bubble going to burst?

Surely there are too many breweries opening, they say. Only a few of them can succeed, right? Won't many of the six in Cayuga County, and 434 and counting in New York state, have to close?

OK, on cue now: No.

Sure, some of those new breweries will close. Some already have.

But this notion that we're approaching some Thanos snap for breweries — some economic reckoning that sees half of them close because they've exhausted demand for craft beer — is silly.

If a brewery closes, it's not because there are so many that the industry has cannibalized itself. It's because of the same reasons any other small business closes: location, quality, planning.

The bubble notion, however, supposes there's something unique about craft beer that makes its growth unsustainable. Maybe it's because most people have only known Budweiser, Coors, Miller and a handful of other brand names for so long. They can't fathom adding thousands of names to that list over the last 15 years. So they see a market flooded with supply, and forecast accordingly.

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There is something unique about craft beer, though. But that something is what will allow the industry to continue growing without fear of bursting this imaginary bubble. 

First is the fact that very few of those thousands of breweries aspire to be the next Budweiser, Coors or Miller. On the contrary, most craft breweries function like any other neighborhood business. They make a modest supply of beer for their communities. And by doing little to no distribution, they bring business into those communities.

Now, you might think that another brewery opening in the same community would cut that business in half, right? It's not that simple, though. Cities like Portland, Maine, and Asheville, North Carolina, have shown that additional breweries can create synergy. They draw even more visitors because, with each one that opens, those communities become bigger destinations.

And that's because — to deflate another myth about craft beer — the demand for it is unquenchable. No one has a drink ticket they can only punch a certain number of times per week. If great craft beer is available, people will go out of their way to try it. Likewise, if my only options were the big three, I'd probably become a teetotaler. 

That brings us to the last misconception about craft beer, and specifically its place in the overall beer market. Those who see the industry hitting the ceiling anytime soon may not understand that the number of people drinking craft beer still pales to those standing by Budweiser, Coors and Miller. So there's still an ocean of customers who could be converted.

No, not all of them are going to be ordering India pale ales anytime soon. Not nearly all of them. But everyone who does helps keep that craft beer bubble from forming, let alone bursting.

What's on tap

Next Chapter Brewpub

New at the Genesee Center brewpub are Chapter Orange Moosicle IPA (a milkshake IPA), Chapter Blondie (blonde ale), Chapter Berry Blondie (strawberry blonde ale) and Chapter Hoppy Berry Blondie (a strawberry blonde ale with Belma hops). Meanwhile, brewer Scott DeLap recently began aging a few of his beers in local oak whiskey barrels, and hopes they'll be finished in time for the brewpub's anniversary in August. And Next Chapter hopes to have its pizza oven and expanded kitchen ready for Memorial Day weekend.

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.


I'm the features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com, and have been here since 2006. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.