Collin Castore started selling beer out of coolers in parking lots at Grateful Dead concerts.
It was the mid-1990s and craft beer was a small niche market. While most people were drinking big labels like Budweiser and Miller, Grateful Dead fans had a taste for independent labels like Sierra Nevada and Samuel Adams.
“Deadheads were always ahead of the curve in terms of quality,” Castore said.
Castore developed a love for beer at those concerts. Over the next decade, he turned that passion from a parking lot hustle into one of the first craft beer bars in Columbus, Ohio.
Castore eventually sold his bar to focus on brewing and co-founded Seventh Son Brewing Co. in 2013. There were about seven breweries in the Columbus area when Seventh Son opened, Castore said. Today, there are 55 in central Ohio. Nationwide, the industry has exploded from about 1,500 craft breweries in 2000 to 7,450 in 2018.
“We got a hockey-stick growth to brewing industry right now,” said Bill Nootenboom, president of Stout Tanks and Kettles in Portland, Oregon. “The way people are consuming beer is changing — they’re doing it in neighborhood taverns.”
But independent craft brewers are increasingly concerned about headwinds as President Donald Trump’s tariffs increase prices on everything from aluminum cans to brewing equipment.
“There’s really likelihood that fewer brewers can open,” said John Watt, founder of Stout Tanks and Kettles. “These are start-ups that a lot of the time are borrowing money from an uncle or parents. Darn near everything they need to buy is going to be impacted.”