Brewers association

Early 2018 Beer Style Trends

We are more than a third of the way through in 2018, and like every year in craftsmanship, the market continues to evolve. In this article, I wanted to check out the two style trends that Paul Gatza and I mentioned in our “State of the Industry” presentation at Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) and see if they continue the same in 2018.

Examination of year-to-date style data underscores how the craft continues to diversify and branch off, with beer lovers wanting bolder, tastier hoppy styles, others wanting lighter and sharper styles, and many who probably drink both on different occasions. . As always, knowing which styles are growing nationally is irrelevant without understanding the variations in your local market and how those styles fit (or don’t) fit your brewery and brands.

Hopped beers remain the main growth engine for craftsmanship

The first bucket of style that Paul and I highlighted was hopped beers. The short answer is that they are still the main engine of crafting growth. Digging a little deeper, however, it’s clear that, as always, hopped innovation has altered growth within the IPA quite significantly in a short period of time.

IPA Hazy and Juicy and Pale Ales

Let’s start by looking at IPAs and hazy, juicy pale ales. These are not new to the market and many brewers have been using them as part of their brand portfolio for several years. What is new is that they are starting to be widely distributed, instead of just being sold directly to consumers by breweries or in very local distribution.

It’s hard to measure this style as a unified category in the scan, so I built a custom aggregate of all brands containing the words “hazy”, “juicy”, or “New England” in conjunction with another word denoting a hoppy style (pale, IPA or double word). For a style that only recently appeared in distribution, the numbers are quite impressive. Year-to-date (through 5/20/18), this set of brands represents 1.2% of BA crafts by volume in the IRI analysis and 1.4% of dollar sales. From 02/04 to 20/05, these figures increase to 1.5% and 1.8% respectively. To give some perspective, it’s bigger than pilsner within BA Craft so far this year.

Fruit IPA and American Pale Ales

That’s not to say all is rosy with hoppy beers. Fruit IPA has lost some steam (and been down since the start of the year), and American Pale Ales are also struggling. So far the misty/juicy/NE growth compensates for these dips and more, but some of their growth can be replaced with other hop styles.

American IPA

Finally, in a development that will not shock anyone, the American IPA remains the main driver of growth. Even if we remove all of the fuzzy/juicy markings from the US IPA, it would still be the top style growth category year-to-date. And that’s not counting the growth coming from IPAs acquired by the major brewers.

Lighter craft beer styles are seeing continued growth

The other bucket we featured on CBC was lighter crafting styles. Again, we see continued growth, but it is far from universal. The most prominent growing styles are American Lager (IRI puts Boston Beer’s new Sam ’76 beer in this style bucket), followed by wheat beer, lager, and kolsch. Together, these four styles account for 40% of incremental crafting volume growth so far this year.

As with hopped beers, in a slower growing world, some of that volume is likely coming from other buckets and style brands. BA craft pilsner has been declining since the beginning of the year. Vienna’s amber or red lagers are again in sharp decline. Hefeweizen is down. So it’s clearly not an effective strategy for just creating lighter styles – the type of beer and how it’s presented is important.

I’m optimistic that the larger umbrella of lighter styles and lagers will continue to grow in the craft.

Even with this mixed record, I’m optimistic that the wider range of lighter styles and lagers will continue to grow in the craft. A reason why? Craft drinkers tell us they’re more interested in these styles than they were a few years ago.

Overview of new data from the Nielsen survey

Here’s a look at some of the data we gathered during our annual Craft Insights panel with Nielsen. (Power Hour is coming soon!)

We asked more than 1,000 nationally representative craft consumers what kinds of crafts they were more or less interested in drinking compared to a few years ago. The style most selected for the ‘most interested’ was ‘Crispy (i.e. balanced/clean beers, not too malty/hoppy)’, with 47% of craft drinkers choosing the style.

More information on this find, including demographics and comparison to other style buckets, will be available soon for BA members.