For those following the developments in the craft-brewing world, it might seem like super-strong beers are the most popular options on the market. That’s pretty natural, particularly when you follow breweries like BrewDog out of Scotland (the maker of Sink the Bismarck and The End of the World). However, the real story here seems to be that lower alcohol content ales are the bestselling type of craft beer on the market today.
The craft brew world has long been abuzz with incredibly strong beers, exotic ingredients and other extreme brewing products. That’s changing though, at least according to consumer metrics. Today, session-type beers are the most frequently purchased products for beer lovers. Session beers tend to have lower alcohol content and be less filling, allowing drinkers to consume several beers in a “session” without being overfull or being overly affected by the alcohol. Most of these brews come in at 5% ABV or less, though some squeak in at about 5.3% ABV. The stronger the beer, the fewer can be consumed during a session without becoming drunk, so session beers focus more on the experience and enjoyment of drinking the beer rather than the effects of the drinking.
This shift in buying and brewing patterns flies in the face of the myth that a good craft beer has to be extreme or exotic to be good. Craft beer is really only about making a superior product in terms of drinkability, flavor and style. It’s about being different from the watered-down, mass-produced beers offered by the big boys in the world of brewing. That doesn’t mean that a beer has to knock you off your feet with alcohol content.
The new trend is appealing to restaurants and bars as well. As craft beers become more and more popular and consumers demand more session-type beers, restaurants are finding that they serve more beer and food per customer (those restaurants selling craft beer, of course). A recent study found that craft brew drinkers spent almost $20 more per meal and drinking session than those who consumed mass-produced beers from major breweries. That’s an immensely tempting boost to the profits, but it is also a sign of just how craft beer drinkers are changing. More beer and food sales per session indicates that consumers are certainly eating and drinking more, that their sessions at restaurants and bars are longer, but that they are able to get home under their own steam as well, thanks to the lower ABV in these brews.