Welcome to the first in a series of regular columns from the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade body representing small and independent American craft breweries. Here, Bob Pease (pictured), chief executive officer and president of the Brewers Association, looks at the latest trends in American craft beer
The UK is the second biggest export market for American craft beer (after Canada) and accounts for 10.1% of all craft beer exports.
Global exports are now worth a record £121 million and grew by 4.4% worldwide in 2016 (the latest figures available) as the thirst for innovative, high-quality, American craft beer around the world shows no signs of slowing down. The American craft beer scene continues to demonstrate growth at home, too, with craft beer production increasing by 5% in the first half of 2017. There are now more than 6,000 operating breweries in the US, with over 2,000 in planning.
We are often asked what is the next big trend in the craft beer world, and we see sessionable beer styles continuing to gain traction in the States and elsewhere. Lagers, golden / blonde ale, kölsch and sessionable beers are growing on two fronts: they appeal to a) entry-level drinkers coming into the category for the first time; and b) ageing consumers who have been craft beer drinkers for many years but are now looking for a lower-ABV beer that’s more sessionable. We can expect to see more experimentation and creativity within the lager style, for example, a more assertive malt backbone, bigger hop profile, single country ingredients etc.
IPAs remain the gold standard in American craft brewing and account for one in four craft beer purchases in the US. They range in ABV from 4% or less to 12% or more. We now have New England IPAs, West coast IPAs, Belgian IPAs, IPAs that are barrel aged, sour, infused with fruit, spices or herbs, black red, white, rye and many more. This style is the primary driver of craft volume and continues to evolve and innovate every year.
Another trend we’re very excited about is the expansion of taprooms and the trend towards beer tourism. Craft breweries are now a main attraction for tourists — more than 10 million people toured craft breweries in one year alone recently. Beer tourism is so strong that travel website Travelocity has published a beer tourism index.
In the States, 80% of people live within ten miles of a brewery and 67% say local is important in their purchase decision (Nielsen). More than 7% of craft sales (by volume) now happen at the source, ie the brewery, as beer is sold directly over the bar and profits are high because there are no shipping, distribution or retailing costs. Taprooms have found a winning formula with family-friendly environments, knowledgeable staff, clean beer lines and style specific glassware.
Cans will also continue to grow. Sustainability is a big ethos for American brewers and cans are more recyclable than bottles; they are lighter, easier to transport, cheaper to ship and take up less space. They have helped take American craft beer to different audiences, such as sports events, planes, festivals, camping etc. They also offer the full 360-degree marketing wrap.
Cans rose to 16.7% of total craft production (2016 Brewery Operations and Benchmarking Survey) against 41.9% for bottles, meaning that cans represent 28.5% of all packaged production and they look set to grow.
But… the brewing industry faces a number of challenges to maintain growth, the single most important of which is beer quality. The Brewers Association takes quality very seriously and places an increasing amount of resources towards helping brewers develop better beers, eg by funding over $500,000 in barley and hop research this year.
We promote the importance of consistent product quality by publishing resources such as the quality pyramid, which is free to everyone, and a book on quality management by Mary Pellettieri, which we sent — at our own expense — to our 4,000 members when it first came out. A wealth of free quality resources is available to download at www.brewersassociation.org
Craft Brewers Conference
The UK brewing industry is invited to attend the Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America, from April 30 to May 4, in Nashville, Tennessee — an annual educational conference and trade show. It’s the industry’s largest gathering for concentrated, affordable brewing quality and performance, bringing together more than 13,000 brewing professionals who hear from some 200 expert speakers, covering 77 seminars across 12 different tracks. More details at www.craftbrewersconference.com
• 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 more than 4,000 US 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 Experience, Homebrew Con, the National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week. The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine, and Brewers Publications is the largest publisher of brewing literature in the US.
Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about home brewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association and the free Brew Guru mobile app. Follow the BA on Facebook and Twitter.