Starbucks has announced they’re adding craft beer and wine to the menu at up to 70 locations this week – with a wider national roll-out planned. They've got several hundred liquor license applications pending. A USA Today story quoted Starbucks executive Rachel Antalek saying, “Our customers want to come to Starbucks and have a glass of wine or a craft beer. There aren’t that many places to go in the evening where you can go very relaxed, very casual. It’s not loud. You can actually have a small group and hear yourself talk.” More likely, you can hear Starbucks, stalled in same store growth phase, desperately trying to add a new customer base, but craft beer availability is a good thing, right?
I went to the Starbucks website to check this out and found their sample menu for what they are calling Starbucks Evenings. It listed food items, specific wines, but under craft beer it advised customers, “ Ask your barista about our current selection of curated craft beers.” Which means one of two things – either they’re trading on the buzz around craft beer without real commitment – or they’re deeply committed to serving local and regional beers from terrific brewers. I obviously hope it is the latter. And beyond that, I hope they are serious about doing craft beer right. I am assuming they’ll be selling bottles or cans, not installing taps – but if they do, they’d better keep ‘em clean.
It’s the quandary faced by many establishments trying to jump onto the craft beer bandwagon. Marketing your place as a craft beer purveyor requires commitment and knowledge. But I’ve gone into too many places making the claim and failing to follow through – offering a bizarre or limited selection dominated by ultra-hoppy IPAs, delivered through lines that haven’t been cleaned since the American Revolution, and poured by folks who don't know a thing about what they’re serving.
And the bandwagon marches on:
In Minnesota General Mills has teamed up with a brewery to produce a Wheaties themed beer called HefeWheaties. Might be great – but does America need it?
There’s a restaurant food supplier selling a line of craft beer battered fries, onion rings, and such. They don't mention which craft beer. And I’m dubious that anything special from said beer will survive the freezing and frying process. But hey, it says craft, right?
Bottom line – I’m all for the expansion of the great craft beer footprint. But watch out for the increasing number of hangers on who may not have earned their place in the parade.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.