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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Why This Movie About Wine Lovers is Also Fun for Beer Geeks

somm_logoI recently watched the documentary “Somm” on Netflix Instant – it’s about wine, but I love films with engaging subjects or characters and this seemed to hit the spot. In a simple way, the doc is about how “four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world.”

For fellow beer fans who aren’t into wine, the sommelier exam is what preceded the beer-centric Cicerone exam. The beer version is the brainchild of Ray Daniels, while some version of the sommelier could technically be traced back a few hundred years to France.

Either way, this film isn’t necessarily just for wine people. As I watched it, there were several statements made in interviews that struck me not only as relevant to the documentary and wine world, but those who love beer, too.
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This is the Real ‘Winification’ of Beer

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It seems whenever you turn around these days, there’s some media outlet hyping the mainstream impact of craft beer…

Among the phrases to consistently draw ire from beer nerds such as myself is the “winification of beer,” more commonly seen as a headline posing the question: “Is beer the new wine?”

No, beer is not wine, nor is it the “new” wine. Most often, these pieces will focus on aesthetic aspects of craft beer purchasing, like the size of a bottle (22-ounce bombers becoming more prominent) or pricing (those large bottles can be compared to the price of a bottle of wine).

These are simply easily-spotted visual cues that could allow consumers to compare and contrast between wine and beer. No, the real “winification of beer” isn’t on the outside of a bottle, it’s on the inside.
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Letter to the Editor: or A Few Words on … Beer vs. Wine, Round 2

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To the editor,

Like a lot of beer nerds, it was hard to miss your recent New York Times piece about beer in large bottles, “Craft Beer’s Larger Aspirations Cause a Stir.”

Like a lot of beer nerds, I was confused. Are large bottles really a big deal? (no pun intended) Who is actually upset about beer in big bottles? Couldn’t there have been more context, history or sources quoted?

I’m really glad that Jay Brooks over at the Brookston Beer Bulletin decided to write something about it. You should really check it out. I think it’s what your reporter was shooting for. And pretty much missed.

But what got to me, sir/madam, was that the story really wasn’t about big bottles, per se.

It seemed to be about a “connection” that lots of people make about craft beer. Because, well, gosh darn, these days I guess beer is fancier then some people remember. And if beer is fancy, it surely must be the “new wine.” Since – as I’m sure you know as editor of the food and dining section at the New York Times – people think wine is fancy.
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A Few Words on … beer vs. wine

I’ve recently started following beer writer Heather Vandenengel on Twitter and caught this post (and responses) yesterday, which piqued my interest:

Reading this story, it seems that the subhead Heather mentions refers to a few paragraphs that talk about food and beer pairings. That’s it, essentially. Naturally, it’d be easy to then draw the line from craft beer to wine because wine is so ubiquitous with food pairings.

This started a brief Twitter conversation between myself, Heather and Win Bassett, executive director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild. I asked them “Is wine connection just easier? More accessible to “avg joe” reader? Or just bad editor/paginator?” They both answered that the connection of “craft beer as the new wine” shouldn’t be made in the first place.

I completely agree with Win and Heather – beer should stand alone. However, what is the extent of the harm of the comparison? This is an issue of semantics. It’s all about wordplay and phrasing, but something that definitely affects beer lovers.

Full disclosure: I rarely drink wine despite growing up in one of the highly regarded wine countries in the U.S. I drink beer very often. Let’s hit the jump together to dissect this misunderstanding…
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Out of town – home to (up) Upstate New York

… no, I’m not talking about the Hudson Valley.

Photo courtesy of cs2901 on Flickr

I recently made a (mostly) annual trip back home with The Missus to the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York. While it’s certainly no Green Bay, you should notice the pride my hometown takes in its claim to fame (aside from that whole Gym Class Heroes thing).

While my hometown of Geneva and its surrounding cities/towns have been forever known as bustling wine country, beer is slowly becoming a fad. As with any trip outside of the Triangle, I tried hard to sample some local/regional beers that I can’t find in North Carolina.

If you happen to find yourself in or around Upstate New York, hit the jump to read about a few that stuck out you may want to try…
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