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Collaboration and Symbiosis in the Craft Beer World

By Steve Siciliano

The other day when Barb and I were at Founders one of the bartenders mentioned that he recently sent some folks our way who were looking for some Michigan beers. I thanked him and said that we in turn direct many out-of-towners to the brew pub.

I love having this type of rapport with Founders, Hop Cat and other local brew pubs and craft beer bars. We are always referring folks to these establishments and they constantly send customers to our store. Sharing the common denominator of craft beer, our businesses have formed mutually beneficial associations that I like calling symbiotic relationships.

Two ancient Greek words meaning “living” and “together” combine to form the word symbiosis. It is a term that was initially used by anthropologists to describe how people in a community have to cooperate to live together. The word has, however, been appropriated by biologists and today is most often used to describe the mutually beneficial relationships that exist between separate biological species. Because I feel that it’s an apt way to describe the cooperative attitude that exists within the craft beer industry as a whole, I’m appropriating it back.

There is a refreshing non-competitiveness amongst folks in the craft beer community. Unlike mega breweries that spend millions on advertising trying to snatch a bigger piece of the market, the vast majority of craft brewers seem more interested in spending their dollars on producing quality beer. And unlike the big boys, craft brewers are eager to share ideas, knowledge and resources. I highly doubt, for an example, that we’ll ever see a collaboration brew from MillerCoors and Anheuser Busch.

Doubtless this spirit of cooperation exists because craft brewers realize that the strength of the individual enhances the strength of the whole and that synergy rather than cut throat competitiveness is the key to the continued success of the craft beer community. I feel fortunate indeed to be part of a community that realizes that symbiotic relationships can be mutually beneficial and more productive than Machiavellian business tactics.