Instagram has received a lot of well-deserved credit (and blame) for igniting the New England-style IPA trend, in part thanks to its bright, colorful, juice-like appearance that's typically accompanied by very attractive and 'gramable can art. We were brought up understanding that beer should be clear, but Instagram has been slaying the fundamentals of beer, one after another. We shouldn't be surprised, as Instagram has become a key source of advertisements, inspiration, and [gulp]...influence for all industries. We're watching a lot less TV these days, which is where we used to get our style and pop culture trends, whether intended or not. I wouldn't have gone through that baggy pants phase in 6th grade if it weren't for a combination of Joey Gladstone and MC Hammer. In those days, it was all in the hands of the largest corporations with the heftiest advertising budgets. Today there are few barriers-to-entry into the realm of content creation, whether you're a business or a fan. Instagram has become the epicenter for its simplicity and visual component, including trends well beyond just the Hazy IPA in beer. I point to this Facebook-owned App for pushing most trends in beer, for better or worse. Here are five reasons why Instagram is the cause of, and solution to, most of beer's problems:
Your Flagship Lost its Sizzle? Blame Instagram
Not into Appearance-Driven Beers? Blame Instagram
Missin' those margins from 22oz Bombers? Blame Instagram
Sexism in Beer? Definitely Blame Instagram...
Okay, let's end on a high note. Well, a high-calorie note at least...
Frustrated that Pastry Stouts Get All the Attention? Blame Instagram
During the Summer of 2013, Goose Island announced that it would be releasing a new brand extension of their Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS). Proprietor's (aka Prop) would be a rotating variation each year, only being sold in the Chicago market. The concept would keep the "home" audience and retailers engaged, while generating a new level of enthusiasm for the overall brand. "Prop 13" was a rye whiskey barrel-aged version, aged on toasted coconut and released on Black Friday of 2013. It wasn't just good, it was great, still ranked #4 on Untappd's World Rankings, with the following years' Prop '14 sitting at #1. There was only one problem...99% of the bottles were seemingly gone after the first day.
"As the craft beer industry has grown, word has gotten out about the ingenuity of BCBS, and its popularity has expanded, making these beers even harder to come by. On top of that, stores sell out fast, they limit the amount you can purchase, the prices are high and some of us simply canât get to the beer store by 5am," Stein wrote. "If you are one of the many who missed out on this years variants, or just cannot wait âtil next year rolls around, why not try replicating the variants yourself, or better yet, coming up with your own version? "
By 2015, Instagram had taken off as a popular medium to share beer experiences and engage with other members of the beer community. It provided more of an open canvas than Untappd and allowed users to incorporate other interest into their feed. Recreating allusive BCBS variants eventually evolved, as Stein suggested, into creating and sharing your own unique recipes. The French press experiments became a common segment at bottles shares, where groups of friends would create their own variants, then share with their followers.
I reached out to Jason, who now writes for HopCulture.com, to ask his thoughts on why we love sharing experiments like this to Instagram. "We are in a state of beer where excess is celebrated," Stein explained. "People want to show what else is possible and push the limits." The boundaries indeed continued to be pushed throughout 2015 and into 2016, which is when we saw a lot of breweries respond with commercial versions of what used to originate in a french press. The "pastry stout" as Don't Drink Beer coined it, was born and is still humming today. Thanks Instagram.
I hope it's clear that I'm using the word blame tongue-and-cheek. And when i say Instagram, I'm referring to all social mediums, though I find Instagram to be the clear winner. It has generated more enthusiasm for craft beer than any other tool out there, favors the younger demographic that the category badly needs, and squeezes the most creativity out of its users. It's not all rainbows and carebears, as there are egos and assholes lurking in the dark corners, but Instagram remains a positive outlet overall. As Stein said, its where excess is celebrated and the limits are pushed. The ability to show off what you've creatied, are drinking, or the brewery you are visiting helps spread interest, inspire new ideas, and keep consumers aware of that new new new that drives breweries crazy, but keep them relevant during this new era: the Golden Age of the Consumer.