Call it “rotation culture.” While it's great for craft drinkers like you and me, it's a problem for craft brewers. “The novelty aspect of new beers is a big part of the market,” says Patrick Emerson, an associate economics professor at Oregon State University who writes a blog called Beeronomics. Companies “need customers to keep coming back to [their] brand, and that requires lots of new stuff all the time.”
That's what a rotating tap list is: a glorious chance for you to try a few different beers every time you go in, without committing to any specific one. The downside for brewers, says Brian Murphy, director of sales at all-craft distributorship Massachusetts Beverage Alliance, is “you’re really just cutting the pie up more.” Brewers have more shots at a customer, but fewer opportunities to capitalize beyond a keg every few rotations. It's not just bars that are adapting to this demand. Retailers are too. Craft's best-selling segment is IPAs, but, according to Julia Herz of the Brewers Association, the second is the pseudo-segment of “seasonals.” For example, every fall pumpkin beers rival India pales for the number-one spot, if only for a brief time. Beer is best when it's stored cold; that's also when it sells best. But coolers are expensive, and retailers only have so many of them. When autumn rolls around, pumpkin-spiced brews go in, and something's gotta come out.