Raise your glasses, lager lovers: Craft beers have more than just weathered the recession. While other segments of the economy – and the hospitality industry, specifically – have slumped, sales of craft beer have skyrocketed.
In fact, sales of craft beers have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years.
Consider these interesting bits of intell from the Chicago Tribune:
By EMILY BRYSON YORK
The economic downturn hurt the restaurant industry and canceled a lot of travel plans, but it hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the ales, lagers, stouts and other specialty brews known as craft beers.
While overall beer sales fell by 2 percent last year, the first decline in six years, the craft segment keeps growing. Craft beers still account for just 4.5 percent of U.S. consumption, but sales have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.
And that’s got big brewers looking for a bigger piece of the action.
It’s particularly evident in Chicago, where Guinness, an import owned by London-based Diageo is testing a craft beer-like specialty brew, Guinness Black Lager in local bars, groceries and liquor stores. Chicago-based MillerCoors, meanwhile, has established an independent division, christened Tenth and Blake Beer Co., to nurture its craft and import beers, including Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.
”Craft beers and imports have done surprisingly well,” said Tom Ryan, spokesman for Tenth & Blake, noting that the recession has been hard on beer and other discretionary purchases. “There are a lot more choices out there and people are perhaps choosing to buy fewer beers, and maybe with a little more flavor.”
Ryan said craft sales have been on the uptick with young, urban professionals for a number of years, while total beer category sales were relatively stable until last year, when sales began to decline. The slide has continued this year, as 21- to 35-year-old men, a key beer-drinking segment, have been disproportionately affected by rising unemployment.
Harry Schuhmacher, editor of Beer Business Daily, said the beer industry hasn’t suffered declines this steep since the federal excise tax was doubled in 1992, and there haven’t been consecutive year declines of this magnitude since Prohibition.
As for the rise in craft beer sales, experts point to a broader shift in taste preferences, price sensitivity and drinking occasions.
”There is a generational shift that is further advanced than is generally recognized,” said Benj Steinman of Beer Marketer’s Insights. “There are consumers that are increasingly choosing sort of the flavor, diversity and innovation of the craft brewers if they can access it economically.” Craft beers are generally much more expensive than their mass market counterparts.
So worry not, craft beer aficionados, the future looks wet – and wild.
Grab one for me if you find yourself in Helena at Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. any time soon!
New Barbed Wire Imperial Hefeweizen from Pyramid Brewing Co. is unconventional in a conventional sort of way
I like the whole premise of this new Ignition series from Pyramid Brewing Co. Yeah, it’s gimmicky, yeah, it’s marketing, but it’s also boundary pushing and conversational, so we’ll go with it.
I haven’t had one of these bad boys yet, but I’ll be inquiring down at Worden’s to see if they can get some in. I’ll let you know when and if that happens.
Here is what Pyramid says about the new series:
The Ignition series is a lineup of unconventional brews that set out to ignite conversation and satisfy the discerning palates of those looking for more beer in their beer. Consisting of three distinct styles featuring bold and complex flavor profiles the Series offers beer enthusiasts a challenging new tier to explore Pyramid’s year round and seasonal offerings.
If you know Mike Baker, you know he’s not going far. But he is leaving the Kettlehouse Brewing Co., a place he’s sort of inhabited like a favorite sweater at least since I got to Missoula two-and-a-half-years-ago and probably much longer.
Brewery people are some of my favorite people, mostly because they have an easy going family style relationship with each other. Baker is one of those brewery people who took some time to chat up a new guy about Kettlehouse beers in the first few months here in Missoula.
In that role, Baker represents the best of brewery people who take time to talk up their product, sort of like beer missionaries.
Baker, I’ll miss seeing your bespectacled face around the Kettlehouse on a regular basis, but as you said last night, I’ll probably be seeing your bespectacled face around the Kettlehouse quite often still.
Come give Baker a rousing send off at the Kettlehouse Northside tonight at 6 p.m.
On Feb. 6th, there will be a party in Whitefish that shall usher in the second age of Black Star beer. Be there or be square.
Like when there is a foot of snow on your grill in mid-January for instance.
Luckily, there are some other really great food/beer combos out there. And if you’re a vegetarian, well, there are options there too.
Last night I stopped off at Big Sky Brwewing Co. to catchup with all the latest tap room gossip and to try a bit of the Stone Thrower Scotch Ales. Generally I’m not a big consumer of Scotch-style beers, but when it comes to food, especially spicy food, I find them to be some of the best companions.
In the tap room, the beer came wafting out of the glass with big bready aromas not unlike freshly baked biscuits. And the balance of sweet malt with just a hint of hop to contain it was superb. But that slightly heavy body and the mellow sweetness along with hints of caramel and nuts started me thinking about something spicy for dinner.
I picked up a growler of the beer and cruised home to search the fridge and freezer for possibilities. In the end, I settled on a spicy pork chop along with a chickpea recipe from my days as a vegbian.
The chickpeas are made by stir-frying onions in ginger and red peppers and adding chopped tomatoes and eventually chickpeas and letting is simmer until the flavors meld. It’s one of our family favorites. The pork chops were rubbed in a spicy combo of red and black peppers with just a hint of sriracha Rooster Sauce and broiled.
For the heat on each bite, I’d take a sip of the beer, and the flavors would fold into one another revealing some really great tastes before flickering and fading into the sweetness of the beer. It’s kind of the same principle with some of the sweeter wines, but if you have spicy food, the heat will give way to the residual sugars and malty sweetness, but you want a nice balance and taste experience before that happens.
Pick up some Stone Thrower Scotch Ale while it’s on tap at Big Sky, and try it with some of your favorite spicy meals. It goes great with Mexican, Thai and other well-known spicy cuisines.
Provided we get some more snow to actually have a floating season this summer, the possibilities for river-friendly beer is overwhelming all of a sudden. Between the likes of New Belgium, Big Sky and now Anderson Valley Brewing Co., there is a sudden surge in craft brews available in cans.
I’ve already said my bit about cans being a great container for the storage, shipping and enjoyment of craft beer, but another thing to consider here is the advantage cans now give smaller craft breweries. Many larger breweries grew up with bottling systems, and switching would be cost prohibitive. This allows breweries like Montana’s Kettlehouse Brewing Co. and Big Sky Brewing Co. to create brand recognition through the rather unique marketing aspect of cans. I’m also a bit curious how this will play out in the space wars on shelves. Will craft beer in cans be sharing shelves with the bottled craft beers or with the canned mass-produced corn beers?
Hey all, time for more Stone Thrower Scotch Ale at Big Sky Brewing Co. Head over to the tap room for a sample and a growler.
I’m hearing a lot of chatter about this beer dinner, so don’t forget to sign up for the Big Sky Blue Canyon Beer Dinner on February 5th. Here’s a little enticement for you:
Baby Greens Salad, Apple Cider Viniagrete, Dehydrated Apple Chips,
Spiced Pecan Crusted Amalethia Goat Cheese
Beer: Big Sky Powder Hound
Herb Grilled Sea Scallop, Caramelized Shallot Orange Glaze,
Beer: Big Sky Belgian Triple
Basil, Watermelon Sorbet
Crispy Seared Hutterite Duck Breast, Black Garlic Spaetzle,
Blackberry-Fig Balsamic Glaze
Beer: Big Sky Kriek
Braised Smoked Brisket, Crispy Widmer Cheddar Perogi, Port Demi
Beer: Big Sky Robust Porter
Milk Chocolate, Bavarian Mousse, Peanut Butter Bombe,
Khalua Creme Anglaise
Beer: Big Sky Ivan The Terrible
Cost ~$65 per person / $120 per couple + gratuity ~6:30 pm – In The Blue Canyon Bison Room ~Call 541-BLUE (2583) To Make Your Reservations Today! Limited Availability
See you there!
Look no further? Well, don’t do that, but I do want to introduce you to a great new resource brought to my attention by the good folks at Bayern Brewing. World Class Beverages offers you information on where to find great beer in places like Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and points east. The funny thing is that most of the hinterland is not colored in, which I assume to mean you can’t get good beer there, which is why I don’t really ever want to live any farther east.