It's so much more than just drinking beer though. In fact, that really isn't a part of it. If you just love beer, it's a lot easier to go find a six-pack and drink that than to make some on your own... which is infinitely easier than trying to do that for a living.
Through my journey reading trade magazines, online forums, articles, blogs and anything else I can get my hands on, I realize as I talk to my customers about the craft beer industry, I have gained valuable insights about marketing in general that can help them in their own businesses. You don't have to be a brewer to find these lessons helpful:
Being the biggest isn't everything. Granted, we all want security, but for many of us, doing something you love is just as important as being the best at it. The big beer companies are purchasing many small breweries, because they love what they do and do it well. I can tell you, the people behind the label get a pretty penny at the time of sale. You don't have to be the biggest company to cash in!
Branding is everything. On of my favorite things about craft beer are the labels. Great microbreweries have amazing labels, messaging, positioning, and brand persona's. One of my favorites in Austin is Jester King. They have the greatest brand persona! They make their beer in a farmhouse in the Texas Hill Country. While I will admit, I don't think I'd say their beer flavor is my favorite; I keep buying it because I love their brand. Great companies build a brand that resonates with the people in their market and it earns them the right to keep selling to them.
Some day I plan to open a brewery. That day is a long way off, but I can say that the lessons we can learn as business owners and marketers from craft brewers are tremendous. In a market seemingly dominated by a handful of players, a small group is making headway against their competition. It really is a modern day David and Goliath story. Many days, I know I feel like David fighting against an army of Goliaths.