Get Crafty! The Craft Beer Explosion and What It Means for Your Restaurant

Get Crafty! The Craft Beer Explosion and What It Means for Your Restaurant

Consumers have been craving local food for years.  They demand transparency in knowing where the food is sourced, how it was made, and by whom.  They’re even willing to spend more for it knowing that it’s supporting their local economy, adding jobs to the community, preserving farmland, and protecting waterways. The result in this growing interest has lead to billions of dollars in investment in the local movement and thousands of new businesses opening across the nation.

No other industry has experienced the amount of growth like craft beer.  In 1989, the U.S. sipped beer made by 300 small independent breweries.  By 2015, over 4,600 were in business – more independent breweries in any year in the U.S. since 1873.  Craft beer has a long history in America, but it’s never poured like this.  In 2017, roughly 6,600 small and independent American craft brewers contributed $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy.  Nationally, breweries produced over 800 million gallons of beer in 2018 with total beer sales of $27.6 billion.  The local beer trend has arrived and if you’re not on board, now is a good time to get crafty and start selling local beer!

Fresh is Best 

There was a time when every small town in America had a brewery.  Locals would gather at the local tavern to swill on suds after a hard day’s work.  But, Prohibition shuttered nearly all small breweries in the U.S. Large beer brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Pabst made large investments to stay afloat, while many small, local breweries never reopened even with the repeal of Prohibition. The decades that followed were the dark ages for small, local breweries. The flavorful, hoppy ale recipes of the past were replaced by golden, generic lagers that came to exemplify modern corporate beer with integrated mass production and mass distribution.


A large beer list can be difficult to manage, but a major draw to customers

In 1965, Anchor Steam became the first modern craft brewery.  Many would follow their footsteps in the mid-80’s and early 90’s.  These breweries, still popular today, including Sam Adams, Bell’s Brewing, Sierra Nevada, and Widmer began a revolution.  The forefathers of the craft beer movement got back to brewing and serving beer the old fashioned way: fresh, small batches, and made locally. Because, after all, fresh is best.  

What’s on Tap?

In states like California, Washington, Texas, this can be a real challenge.  With so many breweries and styles to choose from, where do you begin?  While beer-oriented sports bar chains like Yard House have shown impressive growth and draft beer sales since opening, having over 100 beers on tap in your bar or restaurant can be difficult to manage.  


When developing a beer list, keep it concise and offer a variety of styles that are trendy and popular. Kegged beer slowly loses it freshness once it’s tapped and the reality is that some selections will sell less than others. Consider a small selection (2-6 taps) that best represent your concept and match your food flavors.  Not only will you turn over inventory quickly, but your profit margins will increase as you control pour costs in this way. 

Distribution and Allocation

A great starting point to procuring local, craft beer for your menu is visiting a brewery or brewpub.  Use some of that extra time you’ll be saving by using Cheetah for your restaurant supplies to visit your local brewery and help support your community.  Brewers tend to be approachable – there’s nothing they like to do more than chat about beer and enjoy the products of their labor.  Breweries love allocating to restaurants as they are likely to order large volumes of beer and prominently display their tap handles in the bar. 

Every state has different rules and regulations around beer delivery and pricing can vary between regions.  In California and New York (and 35 states in total), breweries are permitted to “self-distribute”.  Breweries will directly deliver the beer from the brewery to your restaurant.  But as those businesses grow and scale, many turn to distributors to assist in the delivery and help them expand into new markets. The popularity of craft beer is reflected in the catalogs for large beer distributors – distributors now give their customers a wide range of local, regional, and national craft breweries.  


In special cases, passionate brewers collaborate outside their industry.  San Francisco’s 21st Amendment found a like-minded neighbor across the Golden Gate Bridge in Hog Island Oyster Company.  The brewers and oyster company combined to produce Marooned on Hog Island, a traditional English stout using Sweetwater oyster shells. 

Your restaurant could benefit from exclusive collaborations like the unique Marooned on Hog Island beer.

In some cases, the collaboration works in reverse.  Several years ago, chef/owner Tim Archuletta of Ichi Sushi asked Almanac Brewery to make a beer to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant.  The brewers jumped at the opportunity to raid his larder and utilize two of Tim’s favorite ingredients: the floral shiso leaf and the tangy juice of Japanese Yuzu. The result was a light bodied ale that paired perfectly with his sushi and joyously celebrated the new restaurant.

There are so many ways to improve your menu and buying local is one of the best.  While some restaurants buy fresh picked heirloom tomatoes and pasture raised eggs from the Farmer’s Market, others are turning to craft beer.  Whichever strategy best fits your concept and business plan, supporting your community will have positive effects on your business for years to come.

About Cheetah 

Headquartered in San Francisco, Cheetah is a startup that is quickly disrupting the $1 trillion US wholesale grocery and foodservice distribution industry. By offering flexible, next-day deliveries as well as transparent pricing and inventory in an easy-to-use app, Cheetah is helping support thousands of SMB restaurants with their grocery and supply needs in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Seattle, and Dallas. Cheetah has made more than 150,000 deliveries to over 2,000 active customers and has achieved over $100 million in annual sales with triple digit growth. Next up – turbo charging growth by bringing Cheetah to small businesses nationwide. 

Interested in more details? See our website, download our iOS and Android apps, or call us at 1 (800) 571-5231.

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