This Is Why I'm Drunk

In Beer vs. Wine vs. Spirits, Consider Similarities, Too

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Sure, they’ve already ruined the housing market, dating and napkins (natch), but here’s one thing Millennials aren’t apparently killing: wine.

According to the U.S. Wine Market Council, Millennials, who make up a vague demographic of birth dates that nobody can apparently agree on, now consumer 42 percent of wine sold in the U.S., accounting for roughly three glasses of alcoholic grape juice per sitting. Through some backwards math (which I excel at these days), if we pull beers per capita (75.8 liters in 2014) and round up to an even 80, Americans consume 225 12-ounce servings over a year. For social graces, let’s say those beers are consumed on Fridays and Saturdays, which means that’s still just two servings of beer per sitting.

But let’s be generous and say Millennials can’t get enough of their craft beer to the point that they’re consuming more than the average American at 3 beers per sitting, putting it on par with wine. All this does it raise an interesting question that seems to be surrounding the beer industry in regard to the “armada” of wine and spirits coming for beer’s – pardon the turn of phrase – share of throat.

Here’s the situation in 2017, according to Wine Spectator: the U.S. wine market is expected to expand 1.1 percent and spirits are set to rise 2.5, while beer is estimated to decline by .7 percent. Volumes for these three options are wildly different to be sure – beer is cheaper and more readily available in simple terms of ounces – but in broad thematic terms, sets up a worthy discussion.

If you look at trends across the three segments, there are certain connecting points of interest. For example, lower-ABV options may be applicable to wine as well as beer. Flavored brands have been at the core of growth for some spirits, just like beer. Meanwhile, higher end, premium brands have helped move product in wineliquor and beer.

It’s all circular. Especially when it comes back to Millennials. This demographic is the driving force of the American economy – the most educated age group with increasing amounts of expendable income that thrives off aspects of authenticity. As one area of alcohol goes, it’s worth paying attention to the others. Fluctuations in one corner reverberate elsewhere, given the cross-drinking proclivity of today’s consumers.

There are some changes seen in this annual poll from Gallup, but rather than looking at the situation as beer vs. wine vs. spirits, the 50,000-feet view shows that there is plenty in which these beverages share, especially in terms of taste preferences and creating experiences.

What this doesn’t mean is that Millennials are killing the beer industry. Rather, it means that beer – and beer drinkers – have new trends to look at and consider. For all the anecdotes and data we can pull from the beer industry, don’t ignore the rest.

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

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