Times have changed.
A recent article in Craft Brew News quoted industry insiders--people actually making and selling craft beer--all painting a pretty gloomy picture...
"... there is a shakeout in craft happening at every level."
"A reckoning is coming."
"... a coming train wreck...."
As this graph illustrates, year-on-year volume growth for 2016 was less than half what it was just two years ago. And the number's been dropping since its 2014 high. If you built a brewery for your new craft beer back then and were projecting continued growth, your business model has been badly whacked.
"Negative growth" is a bitch.
Sam Adams founder, Jim Koch, just added to the craft gloom with a whiny New York Times op-ed piece entitled "Is it last call for craft beer?" (Spoiler alert: He blames the bad times on just about everyone except the craft brewers.)
Koch's own brand has been hurting for awhile now. Seeming to recognize the changing times, Sam Adams has changed their advertising. With its volume declining, you might expect they'd put forth their brand's distinctiveness, right? Give you reasons--explicitly or implicitly--to choose Sam Adams instead of the zillions of other craft beer brands. Make Sam Adams seem special.
Virtually any craft-beer brand could run this ad just by inserting its own logos. So the one brand that is running the ad will get no lift at all from it.
Firestone Walker has chosen a different route. In place of a generic "We're a craft beer" effort, the California brewer brought its now wildly successful "805" brand to market on the strength of the beer's distinctiveness. "A light refreshing blonde ale created for the California lifestyle," as the packaging claims. Taking a cue from Goose Island's Chicago "312" brand, "805" is the area code for central coastal California. For the time being, "805" is only sold in California, but it's already Firestone Walker's #1 brand.
In other words, the opposite of "generic."