What the Church Can Learn about Millennials from Small Batch Distilleries

I’ll admit that sometimes I feel that I’ve walked out of a Portlandia sketch. I’m a bit clichéd, that way. I bake bread every week, tend a huge organic garden, pickle many things, and I’m a sucker for small-batch, handcrafted whiskeys and cocktails. Above, for instance, is a neat pour of the hard-to-find Balcones Whiskey, which I make a point of drinking when I’m in Texas.

There’s a huge surge in interest in these kinds of whiskeys — and other spirits — which is why you can’t find Balcones even in its hometown of Waco. Prices for whiskey are rising, especially among those that are casked for 8 or 10 or 12 years — a decade ago, no one saw this heightened interest coming.

And this is being driven in large part by millennials. In RHE’s super-viral CNN post about why millennials are leaving the church, she wrote,

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

Shedding light on a similar phenomenon in the world of spirits, Jimmy Flores and Maddie Marston write about why the craft spirits boom is happening among millennials. Anyone interested in engaging this generation in the life of the church can learn a lot by reading it:

Despite the sluggish economy, the spirits industry poured on growth in 2012, and it’s no coincidence that the number of distilleries across the U.S. is continuing to rise. Instrumental in driving growth were small-batch bourbons, whiskeys and single malt Scotches, plus innovations in flavor (think Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and dessert-inspired Pinnacle Whipped Vodka). Last year alone, 81 craft distillers launched in the U.S., bringing the total to 315, and some forecasters predict there will be as many as 1,000 small distillers nationwide by 2021.

Millennials are increasingly consuming craft spirits at the expense of big distributors. But why? We think four key attitudes are driving their interest:

  • Desire for Exclusivity
  • Preference for Local
  • Longing for Nostalgia
  • Appreciation for Process

Small batch spirits, as part of their very nature, breed exclusivity—and for Millennials who prize “inclusive exclusivity,” that is a very powerful draw. Being hard to find, but not inaccessible to those passionate enough to search, actually makes batch spirits more appealing. Millennials love that these spirits all come with a unique story about the brewer or process that they can share with their friends. BottleSociety.com capitalizes on this trend by making small batch products available for sampling and purchase anywhere in the country. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut is a great example of a mass distributor getting in on the trend by targeting the in-the-know consumer who wants something special and knows that in the aging process, you lose the “angel’s share” to evaporation.

Millennials are also hyper-conscious about where things come from. They take pride in supporting their local purveyors and in trying unique, home-grown cocktails when traveling. We’ve seen this affect their food and beer choices, and now we’re seeing refined and considered choices being made in the spirits category. The explosion of regional craft vodkas, like Woody Creek Distiller’s signature potato vodka made from three simple ingredients (Colorado potatoes, mountain spring water, and yeast) was a lead indicator of the success that small-batch whiskey and bourbon spirits are enjoying now. Golden Distillery’s dark spirits are a prime example of this. Its Samish Bay Single Malt Whiskey is made in small batches from a secret blending of Washington state malted barleys, and its apple brandy is made with local Jonagold apples. It’s worth noting that Millennials aren’t just driven by knowing a product is produced locally; they also want to know the origin and the story—the why behind it, and they enjoy visiting their local distillers to get the full experience.

Read the rest of the post here.

  • CurtisMSP

    More interested in story than efficiency or price alone. I think that describes a lot of people these days, even non-millennials. I wonder if our entire society is changing into a “millennial” mindset, and the millennial generation is simple the first generation to be raised in this new mindset, that is becoming common in people of all ages.

    As modernity plays itself out, and globalization means American society can not longer distinguish itself based on its material possessions alone, more and more people are looking for the story behind the possessions, rather than the possessions themselves. I think this change in culture is affecting all of us, not just the millennial generation.

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