One thing seems pretty obvious: the Craft Beer craze is here to stay. And the relative ease in which it takes to find a brewery and a bevy of some very interesting beer choices likely makes the quest for a cold craft brew that much more enticing.
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In fact, according to the Brewers Association (BA), the average American now lives within 10 miles of a brewery. And odds are the local liquor store or food market is even closer and probably has a decent assortment of craft brews on its shelves. In addition, there are now more beer styles and brands in the U.S. to choose from than any other market in the world – but that wasn’t always the case.
Beer offerings by the larger breweries in the U.S. took a turn in the ‘70s as there was a push for low-calorie, light lager-oriented brews. By the end of the decade, BA reported that the industry had consolidated to 44 brewing companies.
This apparently led to the emergence of the homebrewing culture, which set the “wheels in motion” for where we are today.
“We are seeing a cultural shift in the beverage of beer,” said Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director of the BA. She noted that we have gone from “eight craft brewers in 1980 to upwards of 3,700 today,” with 99% of those fitting BA’s definition of a small and independent craft brewer.
Interestingly, Herz points out that U.S. beer sales by volume totaled $101 billion in 2014, essentially doubling the combined amounts of wine and spirits. During that same time, retail sales of craft beer reached $19.6 billion, which accounted for 11% of total beer sales by volume. And Herz believes it is reasonable to think that craft beer can capture 20% market share by 2020.
“The rapid growth of craft beer closely aligns to a cultural shift toward discovery that is prevalent in the U.S. and abroad,” said Paul Avery, CEO and President of World of Beer.
“Craft beer enjoyment goes beyond drinking great beers; it is also about experiencing the stories, people, and cultures that make them unique,” Avery opined.
The expansion of World of Beer is a pretty good example of how the craft beer phenomenon is growing in general. The company has 70 locations in 20 states and is continuing to grow. And each location offers hundreds of selections of craft beer from the U.S. and abroad.
“Let’s just say we have no plans on slowing down…We plan to continue expanding in existing markets,” notes Avery.
“We are receiving a great deal of interest from new franchisee prospects and plan to continue investing in building corporate-owned taverns. We also see tremendous opportunity abroad and just recently finalized agreements with several international partners,” Avery said. Retailers are also “going with the flow” regarding craft beer offerings.
“From a retail perspective, it is more competitive than ever for shelf space at local liquor stores and restaurant menus,” says Herz. It’s a very good thing for craft beer… retail now has to change their game.”
And who are the major players when it comes to this craze?
“The trend toward a more ‘discovery and experience’ driven culture is deeply rooted in Millennials and as such they over-index in craft beer consumption,” opines Avery. “In addition, they also look for authentic and value-based brands, two attributes prevalent in craft beer and of the utmost cultural importance with World of Beer,” he notes.
Avery also stated that “Much like we saw with wine, the pairing relationship between beer and food is really catching steam, and in turn, we [World of Beer] are seeing great success behind the introduction of our tavern fare menu.”