Friday, April 22, 2016

Toward a people's definition of 'craft' beer.

What is 'craft beer? 

Here's a 'people's definition' posted by beer (and whisky) writer Lew Bryson at his personal Facebook:
  • The BA's [U.S. Brewers Association] definition of craft is, to a large degree, self-serving to the interests of its members.
  • To the consumer, 'craft' likely means 'not light beer' that costs more than Bud Light.
  • To market analysts, that's also exactly what 'craft' means. They haven't kicked Ballast Point out of the craft category, since the Ballast Point beers still taste the same, still cost the same, still have the same market position. They don't care who owns them."


In the same post, however, Bryson notes that a pay-for-view industry analyst has reported not-so-sanguine news on first quarter on-the-premises * beer sales.
  • On-premise beer sales were slow - declining -3.1% year-over-year - lagging the overall alcohol category (-0.6%).
  • The overall import-beer category is down 3%, but Corona brands are up 3.5% and Stella Artois up 3.7%.
  • Craft sales have dipped into negative territory (-0.8%) as several major brands declined. Sales declined for both Blue Moon (-3.0%) and Sam Adams (-13%) brands, while Goose Island (18%) and Ballast Point (42%) showed major gains.

Big Craft

Over at A Good Beer Blog, beer author Alan McLeod put in his two cents on the numbers:
Does this matter to you, the beer buyer? Likely not. This is not a bubble bursting. It's a market shifting as they do. The sky's perhaps not the limit quite as the BA promised in 2014. That's fine. Many assumptions usually do not hold and the assumption that craft is marching in a straight line directly towards a 20% market share by 2020 is likely one of those that won't pan out. But perhaps it's still going to turn out to be the limit in a way - except that it's made up of macro owned Goose Island instead of big craft's Sam Adams. Would you care? [...]

Maybe things develop in a different direction.[...] Craft beer could well split into local and macro with only big craft fading, too big and familiar to be considered authentic. [...] Will that matter much to you? Likely not other that it will be you buying the macro craft, wine or hard liquor. You'll be happy.

Cassandra or chicken little? Results from one quarter, although worrisome, are not a trend...yet.

But a people's 'craft' beer? I'll drink to that — even if this consumer might choose a local craft beer first, all things (and that's many) being equal.

Craft beer is a beer that's not a light beer
and costs more than one.
Consumers don't care where it's from.

  • Mr. Bryson kindly granted his permission for this re-post. If you're following him on Facebook, the entire thread of comments is worht reading.
  • * The analyst — as well as Bryson and McLeod (and most in the beverage industry)— used the phrase "on-premise" to describe on-site sales. "On-premise" literally refers back to an idea, thus meaning an 'on' (wacky, wrong) concept. Of course the obverse, "off-premise," could be construed to mean a wacky idea. "Premises," when referring to location, is always plural. The word refers to a building and the land on which it sits. Society, if not the beer industry, relies on precise language to convey precise meaning. I choose "on-the-premises," and "off."
  • Apologies to Howard Zinn.

  • For more from YFGF:

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