Brewing beer is difficult. You can’t just decide one day that you want to become a brewmaster, walk into a brewery, and do as you please for all eternity. In addition to the complex alchemy of brewing, the economics of ownership, management and distribution require thought and planning. If you’re running a business, you need to make beers that people will buy. I spoke with 13 brewers to discuss what the safest beer is to make from an investment perspective.
“I’d go with Pale Ale. These are beers that hop heads can appreciate, but you don’t have to be a hop head to enjoy. Typically well balanced, lower alcohol by volume, and approachable from any angle.”— Davin Helden, CEO of Liquid Mechanics.
“IPA.”— Eric Meyer, brewmaster at Cahaba Brewing.
“It’s never safe. If we make it, people are going to drink it. Opening yourself up to even one person’s opinion, much less hundreds or thousands, is never safe. If someone takes a Crowler home to share with a friend, or someone has our beer on tap at a local spot, it’s our one chance to show what we’re all about. So it better be good. Beer, as lame as this sounds, is an expression. Every beer is hopefully brewed with purpose either for a time, place, or feeling. Expression shouldn’t be safe. There are ‘easier’ styles. But that is still an expression of that style from the brewer.”— Jon Mansfield, brewery operations manager at Warhorse Brewing Company.
“Perhaps IPA, because right now you can do whatever you want to it and then say you’ve created a new “X IPA.”— Larry Chase, brewer at Standing Stone Brewing Company.
“IPA. It will sell.”— Don Oliver, head brewer at Dust Bowl Brewing.
“The ‘safest’ beer to make is an IPA. It will probably sell, but the amount of hops added after the initial brewing process helps to smooth out and cover any mistakes that might have been made. These hops also have the benefit of being slightly anti-microbial, so they are less likely to show up with infections that might otherwise unintentionally sour a beer.”— Alan Windhausen, head brewer at Pikes Peak Brewing Company.
“The safest style to brew is an IPA for sure. There’s a reason it’s the biggest seller in craft beer. You can please the hop heads with bitter bombs or pack the late additions in for the more casual drinkers, but either way, those 3 letters on the menu will sell no problem.”— Pete Anderson, co-owner of Pareidolia Brewing Company.
“As far as sales, IPA. People are still clamoring for IPAs, and usually most IPAs will fare well about anywhere.”— Ian Smith, co-owner of Three Rings Brewery.
“Our hop-forward beers are our best sellers. This is driven by consumer demand. No matter what style of hop-forward beer we make at Throwback Brewery — double, Red IPA, Oat IPA, Brett IPA, Pale Ale, etc. — we know we will fly through it!”— Nicole Carrier, co-founder and president of Throwback Brewery.
“American IPA. We’re still in a market state where a brewery’s IPA will sell no matter how good or bad it is. That doesn’t make it the easiest to make well — it isn’t easy at all. But it is extremely safe. I love trying a brewery’s lagers, cream ales, blondes, and classic styles because those are typically not safe. There’s so much tradition and reference out there that everyone expects a certain thing from a pilsner or porter. So if yours is bad it sticks out like a sore thumb and won’t sell itself the way IPA can.”— Chris Davison, head brewer at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.
“IPA.”— Patrick Byrnes, head brewer at Islamorada Beer Company.