Craft breweries across the country are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, while Big Beer continues to see a shrinking market share year over year, craft beer continues to grow. It’s only natural that in order to cash in on this trend, big breweries are doing whatever they can. These efforts range from the creation of “craft-like” brands, such as Shock Top and Blue Moon, to the acquisition of actual craft breweries. Buying up craft brands has become incredibly popular, actually and with no Big Beer company more than Budweiser.
The American craft beer scene changes pretty regularly, driven by drinkers’ tastes as much (or more) than brewer innovation and experimentation. Styles like ultra-hoppy IPAs and high-gravity beers are always popular with some drinkers, but mass appeal waxes and wanes. Currently, one of the most widespread trends is toward low ABV, lower hop session beers. And that might be a bad thing, particularly for craft breweries.
For a very long time now, the beer industry has been male dominated. That’s apparent everywhere you look, from the staff at most older beer brands, to the advertising they put out. Sex sells, and the beer industry has taken full advantage of that for a very long time, marketing their products in conjunction with scantily clad women, and tongue-in-cheek advertising jargon. The craft beer industry, while dedicated to being different from Big Beer, has also failed to avoid the same pitfall.
The craft beer sector has seen incredible changes in the last few years. In 2017, it’s finally grown to account for more than 10% of the US beer industry as a whole for the first time in history. Couple that with the ever-growing number of craft breweries, brew pubs and other related businesses opening across the country and the future looks very bright, despite the inevitable slowdown of overall segment growth. With that being said, there are quite a few factors that will affect the craft beer industry throughout the rest of this year. Let’s take a look at some of the most important.
Craft beer has become hugely popular across the US. It’s grown from a miniscule segment of the market to a $22 billion industry. It’s also the fastest-growing alcohol segment in the world. While Big Beer sees mounting losses, craft beer sees growth and success. If you think that breeds discontent, you’re right. Big Beer isn’t standing idly by while newcomers erode the customer base.
When you think of craft breweries like Sweetwater, Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues and the rest, chances are good you’re picturing beer and not much else. That’s what they do, right? They’re breweries. What else is there for them to do? Actually, a number of small breweries are taking things a step further and getting into the distilling business as well. There are plenty of reasons for this, and for many breweries it makes a great deal of sense. Are the spirits produced actually worth your time and money, though?
At a casual glance, it seems like the worlds of big beer and craft beer, while related, are completely separate. No one would accuse Budweiser of making anything resembling 90-Minute IPA from Dogfish Head. No one would confuse Sweetwater 420 with Michelob Ultra. They’re different, right? Well, maybe not so much. There’s an increasing blurring of the lines between these two seemingly different worlds, and more Big Beer companies are looking to get in on the lucrative action offered by the realm of craft beer.
Beer pairing has come a long way from the days when you might gulp a Budweiser while gnawing on a piece of pizza or down a Coors Light with your burger. In fact, an entire industry has grown up around beer and food pairings, beer and music pairings, beer and art pairings and more. However, not all such combinations are good things. For example, take sexism and craft beer. That’s definitely a fusion that we should all strive to avoid, from breweries to beer lovers.
“Words have meaning!” I can remember it like yesterday being lectured by a Gunnery Sergeant who was an instructor at Corporal’s Course about the art of semantics. This was a professional development course that I needed to attend shortly after putting another stripe on my sleeve. We had to complete an exercise in communication and I was obviously failing miserably to be “counseled” (more like yelled at) by this Staff non-commissioned officer.
Once upon a time, there was little regulation in the beer/alcohol industry. Breweries, distilleries and wineries were able to sell what they wanted, when they wanted, where they wanted. The creator was in control. That led to problems – “intemperance” was the word used to describe the situation. Then came Prohibition, and breweries were put out of business, forced to change tacks completely, or went underground. Of course, Prohibition was eventually repealed 13 years after going into effect, but things didn’t go back to the pre-Prohibition norm. Most US states adopted what’s called the three-tier system, and it remains in place for many states today, stifling success and putting unnecessary restrictions on craft brewers.
If you missed the Budweiser commercial during the 2015 Super Bowl, you’ve undoubtedly at least heard some of the fallout. The spot featured Budweiser hating on craft beer, proclaiming their own beer is “brewed the hard way”. It was an unabashed proclamation of the AB brand’s claim to the title “King of Beers”, as well as a nod to their staunch supporters – those who have never and probably never will try a craft beer.
Once upon a time, brewing beer was a woman’s task. Then it became a man’s world – Prohibition was responsible for ending a lot of traditions in the US, including the role of women in brewing. After Prohibition, brewing became a man’s game. Most beer was consumed by men and brewed by men. It was marked by men and breweries were built and helmed by men. That’s changing today.
Food recalls happen all the time it seems. The most common cause is bacteria in the food – salmonella is usually the culprit here, but there have been several others. However, beer doesn’t generally suffer from problems with bacteria. The fermentation process is enough to kill off most bad bacteria, and batches that are affected enough not to go through fermentation are easily caught. Once the beer is fermented, the alcohol is enough to keep the product safe, which is why you’re able to age beer.
When you think of “big beer”, you think of names like Budweiser, Michelob, Heineken, Coors and the like. You think of names that have been around for a long time, and have a national or even international presence. That’s made it easier for newcomers to the world of craft beer to avoid mass-produced brews and go for options made by small brewers. However, there’s a chance that bottle you’re holding actually isn’t from a craft brewery. More and more big beer companies are tapping into the craft brew market with savvy marketing techniques, new names and the strategic purchasing of actual small breweries. What should the self-respecting craft beer lover know?
The US craft beer segment has exploded in the last few years. Evidence of this proliferation is everywhere, from liquor stores to grocery stores, brewpubs, bars and the number of new breweries going up all over the place. However, one facet of this explosion might have passed you by – the number of craft beers being sent overseas to other countries. This marks a huge shift in the beer industry, as most countries haven’t been particularly interested in most mainstream American beers (Bud, Busch and the like are exported, just on a rather limited basis in comparison to the beers our country brings in).
It seemed like ultra-high alcohol beer was on the way out. Drinkers were focusing more on session beers designed to be consumed en masse without causing serious inebriation. Others were focusing on reconstructing ancient recipes or on creating the most unique flavor combinations possible. It looks like “big buzz” beer isn’t gone yet, and might be making a resurgence at a liquor store near you. Even the big boys are getting into the act now, and it has nothing to do with “winter warmers”.
If you have paid any attention at all, you have undoubtedly noticed the rapid growth and spread of beer gardens here in the States. These were once restricted to Germany and other parts of Europe, but that is no longer the case. Quite a few cities in the US now have beer gardens for brew lovers and there are more on the way. What’s behind the growth of these establishments? Just how many are there now?
When most people think of China, they conjure images of the Great Wall or perhaps the Forbidden City. They think of cultural foods, or rich history and diverse cultures. However, more and more people are thinking “beer” – at least big breweries are. The Chinese market is one of the fastest growing in the world and that includes the market for premium beer, a fact that Heineken and Anheuser-Busch are both attempting to exploit. Why are so many breweries looking East, though?
When you think of craft beer in the US, where do your thoughts turn first? You might think of Portland or Seattle. You might think of Denver, Colorado. Even Maine is getting back into the act here. However, Michigan is also becoming known for their hops varieties. The state is home to a vibrant craft beer industry, but it goes a bit deeper than just a lot of folks brewing beer in their garages. The state seems poised to make significant headway in growing this essential brewing ingredient though no one really expects them to knock the leading states out of the running.
Wine and food pairings have long been popular. You’ll find guides written on the subject, experts who will help you find the best food to pair with a particular type of wine (or vice versa) and restaurants that operate on the same premise. The same has not been true for beer, at least in the past. Things are changing these days, though. It’s becoming easier for the avid craft beer fan to pair their preferred brews with different meal options. Of course, not everyone has the same options but you might be surprised at some of what’s available to you.