It seems even people who get to brew delicious beer for a living can have a bad day at work.
Craft brewers across America were frustrated this week after hundreds were shut out from a prestigious beer festival, which many consider the premier event for networking and showcasing new products. The festival's 600 exhibitor spots were sold out in under two hours, an unprecedented scenario that took many, including event organizers, by surprise.
The speed at which the festival filled up, several craft beer brewers told The Huffington Post, is a reflection of an industry currently undergoing a massive boom—and experiencing growing pains as a result. With its focus on seasonal offerings, small-batch manufacturing and one-of-a-kind tastes, craft brewing is seeing frothy growth at the moment, those brewers said.
"There's a seismic shift happening in the way beer is made and sold in this country," Jacob McKean, founder of San Diego-based Modern Times Beer, said. "Consumers are so excited about craft beer and there are so many breweries adding to the supply that we're exceeding the pace of the infrastructure. I think what's catching everyone off-guard is the pace."
"There's growth, and then there's exponential growth," he said.
Over 300 breweries were unable to snag a booth at the Great American Beer Festival, an annual three-day suds showcase to be held in Denver, Colo., this October, due to high demand for space at the exhibit. A spokeswoman for the Colorado-based Brewers Association, which organizes the trade show, said so many breweries were attempting to sign up for a spot at the festival that it overloaded website servers, leaving many frustrated brewers frantically reloading a sign-up webpage that had slowed to a crawl.
"We are making the event bigger, but we just haven't been able to catch up with the explosive growth in the industry," Barbara Fusco, the spokeswoman, said.
Giants like Anheuser Busch and Molson Coors still dominate the industry—making 90 percent of all beer sales, according to the most recent Brewers Association survey -- but craft beer is growing. While small-batch brews accounted for just 6.5 percent of all the beer consumed in the United States in 2012, they took up 10.2 percent of the $99 billion spent on beer that year, according to industry numbers—up from 9 percent of the dollar share in 2011.
Mark Irvin, the brewmaster and co-owner of No-Li Brewhouse in Spokane, Wash., said he was able to sign his brewery up for the Colorado beer festival after several attempts. But, he noted, a lack of space at the festival is only one of the ways in which the influx of new players into the craft brewing industry is affecting business.
While demand from consumers keeps growing, there are other inputs breweries need to be successful that are currently in short supply, Irvin said. For example, even though many people with experience brewing a few barrels of beer at home are entering the industry as "nanobreweries," brewmasters with the knowledge needed to handle an industrial operation are currently difficult to find, he said.
"You're also seeing a struggle for tap handle space at bars and restaurants," Irvin said. "And even though the amount of shelf space in stores has grown dramatically recently, there's still a lot more competition than space."
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