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The Problem With Craft Distilleries


Americans are drinking a lot during the pandemic. Who can blame them? But they aren’t drinking much from craft distilleries, an industry that may be facing mass closures. It’s hardly surprising. Craft beer came to prominence because regular mass-produced beer was trash. Craft beer does require some level of time and investment, but almost nothing compared to craft distilling. Craft beer has gotten increasingly expensive (the $18 or even $20 four-pack of 16 oz beers is an abomination) but the individual investment in trying new products is relative low.

Meanwhile, Big Booze produces some great products at decent prices. Who can really complain about Tanqueray, Rittenhouse, Jameson’s, Woodford, etc? Most of us would be completely fine with those types of products our whole lives. Moreover, those giant distilleries combine expertise with volume, meaning they can experiment with new products while continuing to produce the already high-quality products on the market. If I have a choice between buying some special product from Knob Creek for $40 or some bourbon from a distillery I’ve never heard of for $65, obviously I am going to for the Knob Creek. Much of the market for the craft distilleries is high-end bars where people are willing to drop $15 for some fancy cocktail and maybe have already had a couple. Moreover, it takes years for these new distilleries to produce anything drinkable, even if the people actually know what they are doing. Thus the push to make “white whiskey” a thing, which can only be put over on an ignorant public that thinks moonshine is a thing that can be good. That unfortunate moment is mostly gone since there’s enough craft distilleries on the market now that there’s not much room for total crap.

The whole model of the craft distillery is pretty flawed and while I wish these people luck, I can’t say any of this should surprise us.

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