We don’t need to tell our BevSpot blog readers that craft beer has become a full-on, heavy-hitting industry in America in recent years.
I can speak to this personally, since I’ve been heavily into craft beer for nearly a decade now. In the summer of 2009, my brother and I drove all over Vermont, trying to hit as many breweries on the Vermont Brewery Challenge passport program as we could. (There were fewer of them 8 years ago, and I did manage to score a t-shirt.) This past December, I drove an hour and a half each way to get to Tree House Brewing Co. in Monson, MA to experience a taste of their beer: so sought-after that people stand in line for easily two hours to buy it.
In response to this trend, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how both mass market and craft beers are selling across our user base.
We collected data from over 500 alcohol-purveying establishments, then zeroed in on 22 who specifically market themselves as beer bars, brewpubs, or breweries. (Hereafter in this article, we’ll refer to these specific 22 as “Beer Bars” for clarity/brevity. Aggregate responses from the 500 will be referred to as “Overall Bars”.) These trends cover all of 2016 as well as January and February of 2017.
It is unsurprising that Sam Adams lager would be a popular mass market beer at Beer Bars where guests tend to be more selective with their tastes, mainly because of the way that the brand has positioned itself from a marketing standpoint; it started off as a craft brewery in 1985, and it made sure to heavily reemphasize this fact in its marketing once the craft beer movement began to gain steam several years back. But the brand had in fact grown into enough of a juggernaut in the intervening decades that most craft beer aficionados would not consider it legitimately craft—so the brand started branching out into legitimate craft territory and worked to develop new beers at its Boston location. Perhaps it's that experimental attitude that has given them that extra edge at Beer Bars.
At more than 3%, both Founders and Ballast Point have earned a big chunk of beer order share at Overall Bars, surpassing all but the top three mass market winners we mentioned and neck-and-neck with Stella Artois. This data no doubt speaks to the ever-growing popularity of the craft beer movement in the U.S. overall in recent years, and that as the number of craft breweries sprouting up gets higher and higher, inevitably the market share previously dominated by the big behemoths begins to erode.
From personal experience and what I know of the craft beer community, as well as observations of my hardcore beer snob friends: true craft beer lovers will have their staple favorites that they like to keep in their fridge for casual consumption, but when you're actually out at a bar or visiting a brewery, it's more fun to try something new. When I'm somewhere new, I want to sample that region's unique flavors, or when one of my favorite local breweries like Proclamation comes out with a brand new IPA or Double IPA, you can bet I want to go taste it. Experimentation is at least half the fun of craft beer, and there's nothing better than that first sip of an innovative new hops infusion that blows your tastebuds away.
What’s your theory? Let’s discuss in the comments below over a pint of our favorite craft beers. And if you enjoyed this data trends report, create a free BevSpot user account and get live updates on when more reports get released. You’ll also get exclusive access to our tools and resources.