Your Handy Guide to Explain Why Millennials Are So Important to Beer

millennial flow chart

Lazy. Entitled. Selfish.

You could create an entire thesaurus with adjectives people love to use to describe Millennials, those selfie-taking, skinny-jean wearing, stay-at-home narcissists ruining society. What good do they do anyway?

“The pendulum will swing back,” I constantly hear from people trying to describe why their favorite thing will be a younger generation’s favorite thing because that’s how we make America great again.

Think pieces and hot takes by adults over 40 about how Millennials are ruining everything are a dime a dozen, bound together by a common denominator of nostalgia for “the good old days,” whatever they were, and a general lack of compelling data. Or, at least, selectively cherry picked data that helps to emphasize a particular point about how Millennials are wrong about something and whenever they grow and mature they’ll see the true path.

But lets for a second assume that all these businesses and marketing agencies touting the importance of courting a generation with trillion dollar buying power have some merit. What are we to do when those adorable curmudgeons come along? Let’s hit some talking points!

In the last month, I have read about how Millennials have changed the growth strategies and product development within:

Naturally, an impact on beer is just as prominent.

According to data from the Yankelovich MONITOR, the generational breakdown of people who self identify to drink craft beer at least once a week is led by Millennials, who comprise more than half of that dataset:

generation breakdown

Those percentages are for drinkers, not volume, so the total amount of craft beer consumed may not be equivalent. But we may be able to assume, with some degree of certainty, that Millennials are leading the way there, too.

And it’s not going to slow down

Chart from Forbes, via Brewers Association

Chart from Forbes, via Brewers Association

Between 2011 and 2013, 80 percent of craft growth came from new craft drinkers, the majority of which were in the 21 to 29 age group. You can imagine that in the years since, as craft has become the ubiquitous segment for new and Millennial-aged drinkers, that kind of figure has stayed steady.

But most important, the impact by Millennials on how the beer industry markets and even creates its product is profound. From the move away from mass market lagers to a need for variety or placing an importance on “local,” the core values of consumer behavior displayed by Millennials are what’s driving the beer community.

millennial beer drinker chart_web

Among beer’s most evangelical members, one of the defining aspects that ties them together is their passion for the art and craft of beer and how that represents their own attitudes toward consumerism – and sometimes life in general. When we talk about the ideals of “True Craft” or “indie beer” we aren’t just confronting themes of economics or business, we’re exploring what this community and its products mean to us as brand identifiers. Telling a story is so important to any kind of business these days, especially when Millennials increasingly focus on their own personal “brand” and what that means to them.

I came across this comment in a Facebook forum discussing a recent Q&A in the Chicago Tribune with Stone’s Greg Koch, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione and Victory’s Bill Covaleski:

calling out millennial drinkers

The problem here is that the skinny-jeaned dilettante is actually a part of the most important demographic in beer and – surprise! – also comes from the most educated and diverse generation in the country. And, as we see above, holds values that have shifted the industry. We talk a lot about how important innovation and artistry is to be considered a real “craft” brewer, so having a core group of consumers who want to push brewers to think outside the box is important. Then again, Millennials aren’t just doing that as drinkers.

On a recent BevNET podcast, Brewbound’s Chris Furnari recalled a memory from this year’s Craft Brewers Conference.

“I had this weird moment registering and walking up to get my media badge. I grabbed it and walked by this group of guys that were like, 23 years old. I had this moment of ‘uh oh, either I’m getting old or this crowd is getting younger.’ That speaks to all the entrepreneurs that are coming into this space starting from a much younger age.”

This echos recent comments by Harry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily (excerpts edited by me):

  • This industry is not just being driven by Millennials ….. It’s now OWNED by Millennials.  In other words, they’ve gone from being the main consumers to now dominating the ownership of breweries.
  • Secondly, the many Millennials (and younger) that I know don’t see the value of permanence the way older generations do.  They don’t build monuments to themselves — it’s all about the immediate cool experience and the story of the night.
  • THE HERE AND NOW. This is the mindset of these guys, and it’s reflective in the way they make and sell beer … It’s all about the today, the moment, the right now. As such, rotation nation is probably here to stay for a while, despite the inefficiency it creates and lack of brand equity building.

Again, we can cross-reference these kinds of values to what’s happening in the industry today and rather plainly see how important an impact this generation is having.

Lazy? Entitled? Selfish? However you may view this segment of beer drinkers, know there are other undeniable attributes, too.

Trend setting. Smart. Innovative.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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