Bursting the Craft Beer Bubble Rumors: Succeeding with Craft Beer

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Adam Dulye and Julia Herz encourage chain restaurant operators to take a look at the big beer picture during through palate trips and beer pairing. While some in the industry have been hinting at or flat-out predicting a bursting craft beer bubble, Dulye and Herz seemed to disagree.

In terms of overall sales, overall spirit sales reached $69 billion and wine reached $37.5 billion in 2015. Overall beer sales were $101.7 billion, of which small and independent craft brewers accounted for $19.6 billion. According to 572 respondents polled by Nielsen QuickQuery in November of 2014, 42% of craft beer drinkers aged 21 or older have indicated that they are consuming a little or a lot more craft beer. Forty-four percent say their consumption is about the same. Only 7% said they are consuming a lot less. Another QuickQuery survey, conducted in February of 2015, revealed that 52% of craft beer drinkers aged 21 or older feel “locally made” beer is important.

Studies have also shown that flavor and freshness are top when consumers are choosing a craft beer to purchase. Aroma, ingredients and bitterness  are also important, as are independent brewing, appearance and high ABV. Operators need to be aware that draught beer is critical to on-premise beer sales, as are price, beers that complement the food menu, locally sourced beer, and a mix of new and familiar offerings. A Nielsen study shows that seasonal and IPA craft beer styles make up the largest shares of the craft and domestic specialty segment. Gose, herb/spice beer, and Berliner Weisse are the top three fastest growing craft beer styles.

To make the most of beer on-premise, Dulye and Herz encouraged operators to view beer as a movement. As with most movements, expansion is the key. In order to expand your customer base, expand your beer selection. Doing so will also help to make your venue a beer destination.

Dulye and Herz suggested offering multiple styles of beer to expand your selection effectively. The duo recommended an even mix of local, regional, national and global beers. They also said that it’s acceptable to offer multiple brands within a style group.

Regardless of style and selection, it’s important to keep in mind that beer quality is crucial the bottom line. Beer can certainly increase revenue but it’s delicate and perishable. Because beer quality can be altered at the retail level, operators must store, pour and serve it properly.

Another crucial element of on-premise beer sales is identity. Operators must decide and understand who their target is in terms for beer. So, are you after the beer beginner, the beer enthusiast, the beer geek, the cross-drinker, or a combination of those beer drinkers?

Operators must also understand how beer ties into their concept and work hard to develop a reputation for having a great beer menu. Avoid viewing beer as just a commodity. Instead, treat beer just as you would treat any other menu item:

  • List beer on the menu.
  • Make certain servers have tasted the beers on offer and are equipped with beer talking points.
  • Serve beer in a glass.
  • Store beer properly.
  • Be aware of and check freshness codes.

Finally, tie beer into your concept by pairing it with your food menu items. Approximately half of consumers who drink beer regularly do so with food. Just about 90% of these consumers say that they sometimes drink craft beer with food, and 47% say they always eat food while drinking craft beer.


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