Yesterday Mrs V and I went shopping, as we do most Sundays in preparation for the week ahead. Usually we go to our nearest supermarket, a branch of Giant. However, the past couple of Sundays we have gone elsewhere, yesterday we went to a local Harris Teeter and last week it was Walmart in Zion Crossroads, which actually far nicer than many a Walmart and if you go early on a Sunday it is delightfully peaceful and lacking in "people of Walmart".
Whenever I go to the supermarket, I instinctively head for the beer aisle, just to see what there is, if there is anything new and if there are any seasonals that might be worth picking up. Just a minor aside, I wish more places had the option of making your own 6 pack, it took me ages to get rid of the 6 pack of the god awful Sam Adams Noble Pils a couple of years back. Anyway, pretty much every supermarket I go to in our area has a reasonable selection of beer. Our local Giant has various Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Sam Adams offerings, local brews from Starr Hill and Blue Mountain Brewery and a few other bits of pieces from wider Mid-Atlantic region and further afield. The Harris Teeter has a pretty good selection of non-US beers, including Fuller's Vintage 2011 and the full range of Chimay in big bottles. They also have a good range of US brews, including stuff from Flying Dog, Heavy Seas and North Coast. While Walmart has fewer small to mid size brewery products, it was there that I picked up a Heavy Seas mixed 12 pack in preparation for the end of my beer fast.
As you can imagine, I very much enjoy this easy access to decent beer, and in the case of Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, decent beer in bottles I can re-use in my homebrewing. However, this ease of access got me thinking the other day, a dangerous thing for sure, about how accepted "craft" beer (for want of a better phrase) is within the mainstream. Now, of course it is easy to get all cynical and say that the supermarkets are jumping on the bandwagon in order to sell products (which is actually the point of shops if you think about it), but I prefer to see it in a positive light, the market has recognised a demand from its customers for a better selection of beer, and like good businessmen every where they have responded.
Sure, decent beer might not be the Thames of the beer world yet, but I would suggest that it is very much the Kennet or the Fleet - a tributary flowing into the mainstream.