Startup. Eleven. Pivot.
It's safe to say that we knew exactly what we wanted to do when we were based in Central Illinois. The idea that is Blue Tape Brewing was perfectly formed for that market. The Lowcountry is fundamentally different. We are in an interesting place both geographically and temporally in the history of craft brewing. Breweries opening now, including BTB are regarded as third wave craft brewers. This is by far the largest mass opening of breweries in the short history of American craft brewing. It's definitely getting to the point where there is a fear of reaching a saturation point. This fear has definitely crossed my mind as well but it's also important for all brewers to look beyond that such that it does not become a self fulfilling prophecy. The question necessarily becomes, what needs to be done to ensure that we enter the market in an appropriate and needed way.
Central Illinois was underserved in terms of quality and quantity of locally produced beer. It was our goal to provide an improved experience by being the most popular watering hole in town. We would provide great beer and somewhere to have a bite that wasn't a national chain, something desperately lacking from Bloomington-Normal. The South Carolina Lowcountry is different. There are no shortage of breweries here. By my last count, just under 20 with another dozen or so in planning, Blue Tape included. That is lot of people making beer. And the good news is that there are no shortage of bars or restaurants in which to wholesale beer to. What is concerning however, is that this is not necessarily a mature beer market. No doubt it's on its way up but thus far it has been tough to read.
Now I should be careful here. After all, this is going to be read by potential consumers in the Lowcountry, but it has been my impression that Charleston is just at the beginning of its history in craft beer. And as such, the quality is not what it will be. This is true for new breweries anywhere. It takes a while to get things dialed in on a given system. And of course this will be the case for us as well. For now, I view this as a race to quality which will only be further driven by new breweries opening.
As underserved as Central Illinois was, we were also a two hour drive away from Chicago, one of the most distributed to beer markets in the world. Beyond distribution, it seems like a new brewery opens in Chicagoland at least once a month. This was a driver behind creativity and quality, but Chicago is also a very mature market in terms of beer to the point where it seems impossible to open a restaurant in Chicago and not have 10 beers on draft. Now by no means am trying to correlate Charleston to Chicago in any other way than the nature in which beer will unfold here. It's just going to happen a lot faster here due to the inundation of new breweries and the smaller size of the population. This is going to become a beer town QUICK. And we realize that we can't play the same game we were going to in Illinois and as such we are in the process of pivoting.
The core motivations that drive us will not change at all. Our flagship beer will not change at all. The way we present ourselves will not change at all. However, the way we make it to market is likely going to shift drastically. Would it be nice to be the most popular watering hole in town? Absolutely. But that is a lot harder to measure here. I'd like to move in a direction where we are the best for our specific market segment. What that exactly is will be revealed as this pivot continues.
This is no more our market today that it was yesterday as it is no more our collective brand anymore than it is the next brewers. This brand is Craft and it is all of ours to improve, protect and to enjoy.