What's Surging and What's Sinking on Draft?

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Domestic lagers and lights still account for nearly half the pours, but taps are dwindling.

Most data about beer sales comes with a mix of on- and off-premise information. Useful, but not with the kind of detail chain operators find actionable. But the 2017 BeerBoard Report, coming from a company that works with thousands of client locations and monitors over 50,000 draft lines, focuses on the most lucrative part of the beer business: draft sales. BeerBoard identified three trends in 2017.

Three Notable Trends

First, movement in share. Domestics, still the category leader, dipped below 50% share for the first time BeerBoard can determine. Currently at just over 49 percent of sales, domestics slid by two points last year. Craft beer picked up those two points, growing to 35.9 percent from 33.97 percent. Imports, more vibrant off-premise, only accounted for 14.51 percent of BeerBoard’s clients, who include Buffalo Wild Wings, Hooters, Twin Peaks and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.

Second, changes in tap distribution. Domestics pour their nearly 50 percent share from just 17.2 percent of tap handles. Meanwhile, craft earns its share of 35.9 percent from 66 percent of tap handle real estate. Imports, in contrast to its domestic and craft counterparts, achieve 14.5 percent share via slightly more than 16 percent of tap handles.

The third trend identified by BeerBoard is the meteoric rise in the amount of breweries and number of brands produced by them. For example, 1,469 different IPAs were poured in 2016. That number skyrocketed by 34 percent in 2017, equating to a total of 1,970 IPAs available on-premise. Stouts, which achieved second place in terms of styles poured, rose from 796 in 2016 to 921 in 2017. In third place, fruit/hybrid beers accounted for 782 brands poured in 2016 but rose to 855 last year.

Beer Style Performance

According to BeerBoard data, the top five styles in 2017 are unchanged from 2016. In ascending order, the top five are: European Lager, Belgian Wit/White Ale, IPA, Lager and Light Lager. Diving into the top styles and starting with third place, IPA (the dominant style in terms of the craft segment) grew 15.5 percent in 2017, up almost 7 percent from 2016. Lagunitas and Bells Two Hearted clinched the number one and number two spots within the IPA category, respectively. The IPA that experienced the most growth was Elysian Space Dust, climbing from number 90 to number 13 in the rankings on the strength of an 800-percent increase.

The second-place performer in terms of style, Lager, earned a share of 18.19 percent. Dos Equis Especial earned first place within Lagers even though it was down 5.6 percent. In second place is Budweiser, despite dipping 6.4 percent. A 37.6 percent boost in its numbers from 2016 helped Modelo Especial grab third place. However, the biggest increase in numbers came from Blue Point Toasted, which increased by 112.5 percent and climbed to number eleven.

Light Lager retained its title of Number One Overall in 2017 with 42.95 percent of pour share, a slight slip of 2.1 percent from 2016. The top three brands within the Light Lager style were unchanged from 2016, despite each of them experiencing a small decrease in percentage of share. Bud Light maintained the number one spot, while Miller Lite stayed in second place and Coors Light remained in third. Growing by 16.7 percent in 2017, Michelob Ultra earned fourth place, while Corona Light grew by 44.8 percent and slid into fifth. The biggest mover among Light Lagers, Busch Light, grew 500 percent to jump from twelfth to seventh.

Additional Findings

Two other styles also saw growth in 2017. Wheat/Hefeweizen earned 3.19 percent of pour share, which helped it rise from the number 8 style in 2016 to number six last year. Pale Ale moved up one spot in 2017 to achieve tenth place overall after growing 17 percent.

Of course, not every style experienced growth. Amber/Red Ale slid four spots from 2016 to 2017, dropping from tenth place to fourteenth after falling 47.8 percent. Down 14.8 percent in 2017, Ciders fell from seventh to ninth place.


BeerBoard’s beer data is based on pour volumes generated by their clients.

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