7 Signs That the Craft-Beer Craze Has Gone Totally Mainstream

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From Hollywood to Costco to your state senator, everyone seems to want to be associated with craft beer lately. Here are a few indications that craft beer can no longer be classified as a niche category with limited appeal to the masses.

There’s a Craft-Beer Billionaire
Amid the soaring popularity of craft beer, hundreds of new breweries launch annually and sales have been rising 15% or so per year. The phenomenon has allowed thousands of entrepreneurs to make decent livings, and it’s made a few craft-beer pioneers extremely rich. Most obviously, Jim Koch, the high-profile founder of the Boston Beer Co. (maker of Samuel Adams), became a billionaire after shares of company hit new highs last week, Bloomberg News reported.

The Boston Beer Co. accounts for 1.3% of all beer sold in the U.S., making it America’s largest craft brewer and the fifth largest brewer overall, according to the Brewers Association. The company’s stock price has increased tenfold since the middle of 2009.

(MORE: That Craft Beer You’re Drinking Isn’t Craft Beer. Do You Care?)

There’s a New Craft-Beer Movie
Described as the Sideways of the Chicago craft-beer scene,” Drinking Buddies is a new romantic comedy that was recently released in select cities to mostly good reviews. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson star as co-workers at a brewery — Chicago’s Revolution Brewing served as the set for many scenes — who are both in relationships but seem perfect for each other.

And a New Craft-Beer TV Show
Brew Dogs, a show featuring two beer aficionados touring craft-beer hot spots around the U.S., makes its debut on the Esquire Network on Sept. 24. Let’s hope it fares better than Brew Masters, the Discovery Channel show about craft-beer entrepreneurs that was canceled a couple years back amid rumors that Big Beer would pull advertising from the network.

Craft-Brewery Tours Are Hot Political Photo-Ops
It’s been said that people will often vote for the candidate they’d most like to have a beer with. So it’s not a bad idea for politicians to be seen kicking back the occasional beer — especially one that’s made by a local craft brewery that employs (and is enjoyed by) potential voters. Virtually every craft brewer starts as a mom-and-pop operation, so by touring and backing legislation that helps local breweries, politicians can show they support small businesses and entrepreneurship. That’s why in recent months, politicians from New Hampshire, Minnesota, New Jersey and elsewhere have been giving speeches while on tours of breweries in their respective states.

(MORE: Meet the Low-Key, Low-Cost Grocery Chain Being Called ‘Wal-Mart’s Worst Nightmare’)

Big Retailers Are Embracing Craft Beer
Walmart wants to be the biggest seller of, well, everything — beer included. To capture consumers’ beer money lately, the world’s largest retailer has been increasingly stocking craft brands like Oregon’s Deschutes in addition to the usual assortment of Keystone, Bud, and Heineken, Bloomberg reported. Whole Foods, meanwhile, has been hosting specials like 25% off craft beer during American Craft Beer Week. And the September 2013 issue of Costco Connection magazine — sent to members of the warehouse club — features a cover story about (yep) craft beer. Inside the magazine, the stories of brewers like Two Brothers Brewing Co. (from Illinois), Copper Kettle (Colorado) and Strike Brewing (California) are told.

And Big Beer Keeps Trying to Co-opt the Craft Appeal
In addition to stealthily manufacturing and marketing faux craft “crafty” brews like Blue Moon and Shock Top, the world’s largest beer companies are continually brewing up new ways to woo drinkers seeking better taste. One of the latest examples, as CNBC noted, is the addition of Cascade hops — used by popular craft brewers like Sierra Nevada — to the recipe for Heineken Light, whose sales are down 10% of late.

Anyone and Everyone, It Seems, Can Start Brewing
With hundreds of new breweries opening annually — and thousands more enthusiasts giving home brewing a shot — some business owners have seen the wisdom not of starting their own brewery operations, but to cater to the would-be brewing entrepreneur. For instance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiled a company called Missouri Malt Supply, which sells brewing gear, ingredients and supplies and considers itself a “supermarket” for craft-beer makers.

(MORE: In the Craft-Beer World, a Pecking Order Emerges)

On the other side of the state, reports the Kansas City Star, a new company called the Brew Lab might be thought of as a “build-a-beer workshop,” in which customers can buy brewing equipment and supplies, and also try out ideas and pick the brains of pros at on-site brewing stations.