A Look into the Beer Crystal Ball

Image: Getty

1. The new American beer is Mexican.

While Mexican beers became a pawn in the recent US presidential election, the American consumer is voting early and often for them. Brews from south of the border are growing in sales at the expense of Big Beer’s national brands. Mexican beers are on a 10-year tear and showing no signs of slacking off, and a recent Nielsen study shows Mexican beer driving the growth of imports into the US. Today, there are few bars in America that don’t routinely carry two or three beers from the Mexico. There may or may not be a move to build a wall, but expect more Mexican beer to flow across the border in 2017.

2. Craft crash?

There have been rumblings inside the craft movement that the biz is getting a bit frothy, especially given the flood of money from major international players. As an example, the recent announcement of layoffs at Stone Brewing in San Diego has upped the anxiety. While a shake-out may be in the offing, overall craft beer is still nibbling away at domestic premium brews and has lots of room to grow as a category. How craft will be defined in the future may be in doubt, but for on-premise operators, there are no signs of slacking consumer interest, even if the category is very crowded these days and may need a correction.

3. IPA all the way.

No other beer style has caught fire anywhere close to India Pale Ales. The days of massively macho high International Bitter Unit brews may have peaked but there are thousands of American consumers for whom IPA is the favored style of beer. They may not be brand loyal they are loyal to their favorite style. In fact, IPAs are now said to account for a quarter of craft beer sales. Operators who carry more than one type of IPA – perhaps a high intensity version, a seasonal, and one lower in bitterness and therefore more sessionable – will see the rewards as long as the trend continues.

4. When you’re having more than one.

Among committed craft drinkers and especially those who like beer with food, IPA isn’t always the first choice. Noteworthy is the rise of more sessionable styles, including golden ales, pilsners and pale lagers. These styles of beers are up nearly a third in the past year, and they are starting to pile up fans even among the casual beer drinkers, `particularly those for whom increased bitterness is not an attraction.

5. The new beer behemoth.

Now that AB InBev has closed the deal with SABMiller, operators will likely have more opportunity to make their buys from one source. Since 2011, Ab InBev has added Goose Island, Bluepoint, Elysian, Breckenridge, and most recently Devil’s Backbone, among others, to its craft beer portfolio. This means operators will have access to a more expansive craft portfolio from the same source as mainstream beers. Footprint can be everything when it comes to beer distribution, and how big the mega-brewer can grow these crafty beers depends on one thing they can certainly provide: ubiquity. Once a beer is available everywhere, it becomes harder to attract a craft drinker, especially Millennials, a notoriously brand disloyal group. How it all unfolds will be worth watching.


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