Two recent bits of beer news worth pondering:
While big American brewers continue to stagger under the ascent of craft beers, to the point that the total U.S. beer market here shrunk 1.5 percent last year, the imported beer segment enjoyed its fourth consecutive year of growth, according to a report from Impact Databank. Imported brews increased 2% to 400 million cases, still less than its high point in 2007, however.
Without Mexican beers, the picture would be quite bleak, however, according to the report. Top Mexican brand Corona Extra, rose 2.4 percent last year to become the fifth-largest beer brand in the U.S. of all brews, imported and domestic, accounting for 25 percent of imported beer. Modelo Especial grew nearly 20 percent last year and is up more than 60 percent in three years. Dos Equis Lager was yet another Mexican beer soaring, up 17 percent last year. Of non-Mexican brews, Stella Artois showed best in terms of increase percentage, according to the report.
So overall, except for major Mexican beers, the changing American beer drinker doesn’t seem to be offering great prospects to the world’s biggest brewers, certainly not on-premise, where craft beers increasingly are taking menu spots and tap handles.
Perhaps that helped push a recent cooperative program between the 151 unit casual dining BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse and Caledonian Brewery, a 145-year-old traditional brewery in Scotland, which have partnered to create a one-of-a-kind new craft beer, BJ’s Hoppy Scotsman Ale, to be sold exclusively at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse locations in 18 states through the month of June.
BJ’s Hoppy Scotsman incorporates Scottish malts and yeast with American hops. The brewers from BJ’s collaborated with Caledonian Brewery, which still uses Victorian-era brewing equipment to brew its beers, including all of Newcastle’s limited-edition seasonals.
“Partnering with historic European breweries like Caledonian that use traditional methods and ingredients is one of the many ways we give our beer drinkers a unique experience at our restaurants,” said Alex Puchner, senior vice president of brewing operations, BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. “BJ’s Hoppy Scotsman lives up to its name. It’s a very hoppy ale that’s not too bitter and pairs well with many of our great menu items.”
That’s one way for mega-brewers (Caledonian, like Newcastle, is owned by Dutch brewer Heineken) to get a piece of the craft beer pie. Just as A-B InBev is continuing to buy successful craft brewers in the US to hedge their losses, expect other large brewers to belatedly look for deals like these to get back into on-premise favor.