The Omni­bi­bu­lous Natu­re of Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Drinkers

- die­sen Arti­kel in deut­scher Über­set­zung lesen -

Lot­te Peplow, Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on Ame­ri­can craft beer Ambassa­dor for Euro­pe, takes a deep dive into Ame­ri­can craft beer trends, fla­vours, attri­bu­tes and mindful drin­king to deter­mi­ne what’s around the corner

Let’s start with a defi­ni­ti­on – Omni­bi­bu­lous – someone who drinks across a wide spec­trum of alco­hol bever­a­ges. Every year the Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on, the not-​for-​profit trade orga­ni­sa­ti­on repre­sen­ting small and inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers, car­ri­es out a sur­vey* loo­king at trends within the Ame­ri­can craft beer indus­try and latest results reve­al 94% of weekly Ame­ri­can craft beer drin­kers indi­ca­te they’re drin­king at least one other alco­ho­lic bevera­ge cate­go­ry weekly, ie wine, sprits, liqu­ors, selt­zer, cider, FMBs (fla­vou­red malt bever­a­ges). Why? The ans­wer is simple….there is more choice in alco­hol bever­a­ges than ever befo­re. RTDs (Rea­dy To Drink) are per­forming stron­gly with spi­rit based can­ned cock­tails gro­wing due to a sur­ge in home con­sump­ti­on and the desi­re to recrea­te the cock­tail expe­ri­ence at home.

Howe­ver, beer remains the domi­nant alco­hol bevera­ge in Ame­ri­ca with craft beer accoun­ting for 12.3% mar­ket share by volu­me in 2020. Retail dol­lar value was esti­ma­ted at $22.2 bil­li­on, repre­sen­ting 23.6% mar­ket share**. The­re are now 8,848 craft bre­we­ries in Ame­ri­ca, the hig­hest num­ber ever recor­ded. The per­cen­ta­ge of craft beer drin­kers (seve­ral times a year) con­ti­nues to grow and accounts for 44% of the popu­la­ti­on aged 21+ (up from 35% in 2015). The UK is an important export mar­ket for Ame­ri­can craft beer and repres­ents the second lar­gest mar­ket after Cana­da with 10.1% of all glo­bal Ame­ri­can craft beer exports.

Fla­vour Profiles

Sur­vey respond­ents were asked what fla­vours they were more or less inte­res­ted in, from crisp, juicy/​hazy, frui­ty, dark, mal­ty, hop­py, spi­cy (yeast) or tart and the results indi­ca­te that all fla­vours are gro­wing. Sin­ce 2018 inte­rest in juicy/​hazy has grown the fas­test at 9% fol­lo­wed by frui­ty at 8% and that’s a good indi­ca­tor of what we see in the mar­ket­place today. Ana­ly­se the data by demo­gra­phic and it shows that all age groups were more inte­res­ted in crisp beer styl­es, fol­lo­wed by juicy/​hazy that was more inte­res­t­ing to craft beer drin­kers under the age of 54. Tart beers tend to be more pola­ri­sing and are less inte­res­t­ing to drin­kers 45+ years old but poten­ti­al­ly an area of growth for the youn­ger drinker.

Loo­king at gen­der pre­fe­ren­ces in fla­vour pro­files there’s more simi­lia­ri­ty than dif­fe­rence. Popu­lar beer fla­vours are equal­ly inte­res­t­ing to both male and fema­les, such as crisp beer being 40% more inte­res­t­ing to both male and fema­les equal­ly. The­re are a few varia­ti­ons such as fema­le being more inte­res­ted in frui­ty and male in dark but in gene­ral pre­fe­ren­ces are very simi­lar. Accor­ding to the rese­arch, the gen­der gap in craft beer con­su­mers con­ti­nues to nar­row with 71 male v 29 fema­le split in 2015, shif­ting to 64 male v 35 fema­le in 2021.

The next gene­ra­ti­on of craft beer drin­kers are dri­ving the mar­ket. Newest legal drin­king age 21–34 year olds are more inte­res­ted in craft beer and exci­ted about the who­le gamut of beer fla­vours. Lots of oppor­tu­ni­ties exist for the next gene­ra­ti­on of craft beer con­su­mers and for bre­wers to meet this demand.

Mindful Drin­king

A few years ago mindful drin­king was never part of the craft beer con­ver­sa­ti­on, but times they are a‑changing. We asked what attri­bu­tes craft beer drin­kers were more inte­res­ted in than they were two years ago and at a base level inte­rest in all attri­bu­tes has increased ie. local ingre­di­ents, low calo­rie, orga­nic, low carb, health-​centric ingre­di­ents, fit­ness goals, smal­ler for­mats, low ABV, gluten-​free and non-​alcoholic. In the recent sur­vey, two thirds of respond­ents said they were more inte­res­ted in at least one of the­se attri­bu­tes in their bevera­ge alco­hol purcha­ses than they were two years ago and among weekly craft beer drin­kers inte­rest was even hig­her with three quar­ters of respond­ents say­ing at least one of the­se mindful drin­king trends was important to them.

Loo­king spe­ci­fi­cal­ly at 21–34 year old drin­kers, they are at least as inte­res­ted in the­se trends as over­all drin­kers and it’s clear that the­se attri­bu­tes will con­ti­nue to grow in importance for the next gene­ra­ti­on. For exam­p­le, a beer drin­ker who cares about low calo­rie at 21 is likely to care a lot more as a 35 year old sin­ce in gene­ral calo­ries do not beco­me less important to peo­p­le as they age. Some of the trends we’re see­ing in the broa­der alco­hol bevera­ge space are only going to inten­si­fy within craft beer as the next gene­ra­ti­on cle­ar­ly cares more about the­se attri­bu­tes than pre­vious generations.

Alco­hol by volu­me (ABV), par­ti­cu­lar­ly hig­her and lower ABV, is beco­ming more important to craft beer con­su­mers and dri­ving trends in the mar­ket whe­re beers of 5% and below are gro­wing stron­gly and 6/​7/​8% and abo­ve are also gro­wing. Dou­ble IPA is now the growth dri­ver within the IPA cate­go­ry and rese­arch sug­gests IPA is dece­le­ra­ting while DIPA takes a grea­ter share. This growth is reflec­ted in the fact that con­su­mers are loo­king for hig­her or lower abv beers and the midd­le is a toug­her place to be.

Respond­ents were asked how important ABV is to them and 72% of craft drin­kers said that it was at least some­what important rising to 82% of weekly craft drin­kers. Near­ly half of all weekly craft beer drin­kers said ABV was very important to them. Such respon­ses beg the question…How easy is it for someone to find the ABV on your tap hand­le, pack­a­ging or bar menu? Attri­bu­tes like ABV, calo­ries. gluten-​free etc are beco­ming more important in beer label­ling and making them visi­ble is key.

The sur­vey results threw out a few cur­ve balls such as small pack for­mats. It’s fair to assu­me that small for­mat, ie 8oz (250ml) cans may be more inte­res­t­ing to fema­les and/​or older 55+ drin­kers. That is not the case. Within craft beer con­su­mers rese­arch indi­ca­tes the youn­ger age group was more inte­res­ted in small for­mat with appro­xi­m­ate­ly 20% of 21–34 year olds more inte­res­ted than they were befo­re. What’s also sur­pri­sing is the fact that men were slight­ly more inte­res­ted in por­ti­on size than women.

Also note­wor­t­hy was the growth in non-​alcoholic beers that now account for .5% of the total craft beer mar­ket. It’s a niche but gro­wing sec­tor and may not seem much on its own but com­pared to other sub-​styles of craft beer it’s a big chunk. Despi­te being a niche style, the­re are oppor­tu­ni­ties out the­re for bre­wers to beco­me big in a sec­tor such as non-​alcoholic. Tri­al and dis­co­very is hel­ping to grow the sec­tor and keep it sta­ble and this is par­ti­cu­lar­ly evi­dent in Janu­ary when peo­p­le try low and no-​alcoholic drinks then stick with them.

The Digi­tal World

The pan­de­mic has shifted bevera­ge alcohol’s rela­ti­onship to e‑commerce, argu­ab­ly fore­ver. The new ways of buy­ing bevera­ge alco­hol mean more peo­p­le are incor­po­ra­ting e‑commerce chan­nels into their purcha­sing habits and this is chan­ging the land­scape for small and inde­pen­dent craft bre­wers. Craft bre­wers need to think about how e‑commerce fits in to their sales and mar­ke­ting stra­tegy, eg. how easy is it for con­su­mers to find your beer on e‑platforms – does it look good, is all infor­ma­ti­on lis­ted cor­rect­ly etc. The same effort needs to go into making beer look good and sel­ling it on e‑platforms as it does in-​store. The shift is coming and it’s going to hap­pen fast becau­se we’ve seen it in other industries.
Ame­ri­can craft beer is available from sel­ec­ted retail­ers throug­hout Germany.

* Har­ris Poll among 1,900 US adults aged 21+
** Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on annu­al pro­duc­tion figu­res survey

About the author

Lot­te Peplow is the Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Ambassa­dor for Euro­pe for the Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on and is based in Lon­don, UK. She is a Cer­ti­fied Cice­ro­ne®, BDI accre­di­ted Beer Som­me­lier, beer wri­ter, beer com­mu­ni­ca­tor, inter­na­tio­nal beer judge, home­bre­wer and beer lover

About the Bre­wers Association

The Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on (BA) is the not-​for-​profit trade asso­cia­ti­on dedi­ca­ted to small and inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can bre­wers, their beers and the com­mu­ni­ty of bre­wing enthu­si­asts. The BA repres­ents 5,500-plus U.S. bre­we­ries. The BA’s inde­pen­dent craft bre­wer seal is a wide­ly adopted sym­bol that dif­fe­ren­tia­tes beers by small and inde­pen­dent craft bre­wers. The BA orga­ni­zes events inclu­ding the World Beer Cup®Gre­at Ame­ri­can Beer Fes­ti­val®Craft Bre­wers Con­fe­rence® & Bre­w­Ex­po Ame­ri­ca®SAVOR: An Ame­ri­can Craft Beer & Food Expe­ri­enceHome­brew ConTMNatio­nal Home­brew Com­pe­ti­ti­on and Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Bre­wer® maga­zi­ne, and Bre­wers Publi­ca­ti­ons® is the lea­ding publisher of bre­wing lite­ra­tu­re in the U.S. Beer lovers are invi­ted to learn more about the dyna­mic world of craft beer at® and about home­bre­wing via the BA’s Ame­ri­can Home­bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on® and the free Brew Guru® mobi­le app. Fol­low us on Face­book, Twit­ter and Insta­gram.

Bre­wers Association
1327 Spruce Street
80302 Bould­er, Colo­ra­do, USA

For fur­ther information:
Lot­te Peplow
+44 (0)7973 698 414

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