Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Craft beer sales continue to boom, but…

By William Brand
Friday, February 29th, 2008 at 11:11 pm in Uncategorized.

Brewpubs, craft brewers

The 2007 craft beer statistics are out and they’re impressive: sales by “independent” craft brewers rose 12 percent by volume and 16 percent in dollars in 2007, the Brewer’s Association reports.

Great news. It means craft beer continues to grow in popularity, that it’s not a craze or a fad or whatever. The stuff we like to call good beer is here to stay. But there are a couple of caveats.

One. Craft beer share. Just 3.8 percent of all beer sold in America is what the association defines as craft beer. So 94.2 percent of beer sold is what? Lager swill?

Not exactly, the association has it’s own definition of craft beer. They rule out Redhook, Widmer, among others, because they’re partly owned by a big brewer (Anheuser-Busch). They also don’t count Coors Blue Moon, because well, Coors is a mega-brewer.

But if the criteria is taste, rather than who makes it – the picture looks a lot brighter. And the percentage sold of “beer with real taste” jumps a couple of points. Don’t have production figures yet, so it’s just a guess.

The trouble with the association’s figures is they partially hide a real shift in American beer-drinking taste away from lager swill, toward beers with more flavor. It gets more complicated, but when you add quality imports the percentage of Americans drinking full-flavored beer grows a bit more.

It’s tedious to sort out the imports, but important. There’s little difference between Euro-lagers like Heineken and Mexican beers like Corona and your basic America lagers.

Two. This is probably the most important trend. Light beer sales continue to rise and now have about half the total market. At the same time sales of what the mega-brewers call “full calorie” beer, are falling rapidly.

Food for thought, huh? What do you think? Opinions anyone? Personally, I can’t fathom why anyone would drink light beer.

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