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

wine-spirits-beer-header

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

Advertisements

With Eyes on AB InBev, Are We Missing Another Beer Fight?

wine-spirits-beer-header

There’s an inherent problem with the argument the beer community makes when it decries the never-ending war between Big Beer and the Little Guys.

Yes, there are issues to discuss and advantages for some over others, but in the fight for share of mind and stomach, there are battles that go beyond AB InBev versus the world of craft. The lines extend past beer.

In recent years, as buyouts and heated discussions about distribution have taken place, drinkers might have been missing a shift in the very ground beneath their feet. At bars and restaurants across the country, tap lines have never offered such an array of choice, but the same could be said for what’s sitting on the shelves behind the bartender, too.

It’s not just about beer against beer these days. Wine and spirits are coming for your pint glass, too.

Continue reading

Trend Watching: Is Beer Looking to ‘Sweeten’ Its Deal with Drinkers?

beer-bingo board_web

Us humans are a fickle species.

For as much as we are individual snowflakes, there is still even more that binds us together, ingrained predispositions that go back to our earliest ancestors. Fight or flight, companionship and even the kind of food we like to eat.

While our tastebuds can take us in all sorts of directions – cilantro or soap? – there is still one unifying taste to which we return time and time again: sweetness. It’s a choice determined by our culture and biology, all the way into our chromosomes.

Americans_Have_the_Fever_for_Flavor

Via Nielsen, preferred tastes by gender for flavored alcoholic beverages. Click to enlarge.

So is it a surprise that it constantly finds a way to sneak into the drinks we love? Juices and sodas easily satiate a need for sweet, but even our booze continues to turn that corner, offering more options that either incorporate sweetness or tackle the taste straight on. After all, honey is the 2015 flavor of the year for a reason.

Whenever people talk about trends in beer, it’s always the same few things: sours, session IPA, lagers, cans.

That sour trend? We’ve wondered about it since 2011. Session IPA? Gaining steam since 2012. Lagers? Maybe consider source of flavor. Cans? It’s a vessel, not a trend.

Old feels new again all the time. Trying to talk about hot trends in beer ignores the fact it’s like jumping in a time machine and throwing a dart at a year to visit. “Trends” are cyclical or simply never ending. History can teach us that.

The next “big thing” in beer? It’s already here. It always has been.

Continue reading