September 27, 2012

With the recent release of a beer study by market research firm Technomic, it appears that Americans are slowly turning away from lowest-common-denominator beers to embrace higher-quality (and more expensive) craft beers. As a result, the overall quantity of beer sold in the country is slightly down, while there have been higher sales number for imported beers and American-made craft beers. As most anyone familiar with today’s beer scene would tell you, it reflects what we are seeing in bars, grocery stores and refrigerators across the US.

Yes, the Beer Giants still dominate advertising and sponsorships, and they may always have a death grip on the general public’s brand awareness. But craft beer in America is here to stay—even if people do worry about their being too many new breweries—and the lineup available even at the average grocery store is an inspiration to most any beer lover. At my own local grocer, the selection is probably 4 times as large as it was 10 years ago, and they are even selling draft beer in growlers now (though sadly—not at my neighborhood branch).

I must admit I was also happy to see Yuengling on that top sales list (#16 – over 10 million cases sold, just a fraction of Bud Light’s 269+ million) since I think it’s a very good product and now is happily available in Ohio. Many local bars have in on draught now, and since it has been introduced in our area, has become a common replacement for basic lagers like Bud, Miller and Coors. Why? Well, it tastes better—though still relatively familiar—and is also offered at an accessible price point for the average customer. Even Yuengling’s Light product is touted by one of my local barkeeps as being more flavorful than a standard Bud (this is indeed true) and once they have sampled either Pennsylvanian lager, it may be only a hop-skip-and-a-jump before they’ll check out a Yuengling Black & Tan.

I do believe that older, “traditional” beer drinkers can be educated. A thoughtful combination of the right product and the right price makes entry into the craft beer world easier for those who don’t want to immediately plunk down several dollars for an exotic tri-hopped IPA or seasonal spiced pumpkin ale. Yuengling has expanded its distribution in the right places and at the right time, and is seeing major growth as a result. A-B may try to get in on this taste shift with their “Project Twelve” craft-beer scheme…but my take is that a lot of beer drinkers will see it more as a temporary marketing gimmick than a genuine change in philosophy. Regardless of how these new “test’ beers taste, what happens afterwards? Do you think you’re going to be able to buy that bottle of amber named after a ZIP code next year?


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