Home' Brewers Guardian Digital Magazine : November 2014 Contents Perhaps a better definition of craft beer would be premium-priced speciality
beers. This would include products made by microbreweries, but would also
encompass products like Belgian Abbey & Trappist Beers, French Bieres de Garde,
premium English ales, wheat beers, and seasonal beers.
The origin of the craft phenomenon can be traced back to the mid-1960s when
Fritz Maytag bought the Anchor Brewery in California. However, it was the launch
of Boston Beer’s Sam Adams in the early 1980s that started the craft beer revival
in earnest. Sam Adams was soon joined by other pioneering craft brewers such as
Sierra Nevada (actually founded a few years earlier). The category really took off
in the early to mid-1990s and sales are continuing to massively outperform the
overall US market.
In Europe, the early 1970s saw a consumer backlash against the consolidation
and ‘corporatisation’ of the beer industry. In the UK, the Campaign for Real Ale
(CAMRA) was launched to champion and campaign for the preservation of small
local breweries. Similar organisations also sprang up
in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Small independent brewers have also benefited
from favourable tax exemptions on smaller scale
breweries in many countries. The introduction of
the progressive beer duty in the UK in 2002 by the
then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, is
credited with kick-starting the country’s craft beer
and microbrewery boom.
Not only has the beginning of the 21st century seen
an explosion in the number of microbreweries, but
it has also seen resurgence in interest in existing
products. Wheat beer in Germany is one of the few
areas of growth in an otherwise declining market.
Speciality Belgian beers such as Leffe, Chimay,
Duvel and Hoegaarden have all seen increased sales
in overseas markets.
Currently craft beers are undergoing an
unprecedented period of growth. The category
has prospered during the economic downturn as
consumers seek better quality products – “more
bang for their buck”.
Craft beers are part of a much wider societal trend
towards authenticity and localism and away from
processed foods. This is manifested in the growth
of artisan cheeses; handmade chocolates; home
baking and farmers’ markets.
That said, the four main drivers behind the growth
of craft beers are quality, heritage, differentiation
and an anti-corporate stance.
One of the core pillars of the US craft beer definition
is the importance of all-malt beers. The perception
of quality has been key to the development of
the category, allowing craft beers to command
consistently premium and super premium price points.
Heritage is also very important, both for European
brewers with centuries of history behind them, and
for the US craft brewers who have made a point of
resurrecting historical beer styles.
Perhaps the most tangible driver is the desire for
something different than a normal pils-style blonde
lager. Craft brewers, especially in the US, have been
very innovative in terms of educating consumers.
They have been particularly active in matching beer
with food (an area that brewers have often left to
wine producers) and in sampling concepts.
A less tangible, but very powerful, driver is a
perceived anti-corporate stance. The ‘small is
beautiful’ positioning inherent in the US definition of
craft beer, appeals to consumers who like to affect a
Although, almost by definition ‘craft’ tends to
form a relatively small part of most global brewers
business, it is extremely profitable and can provide
much needed growth in otherwise static or declining
Sweetening the pils
One of the fastest growing sectors within the beer
industry is flavoured beer.
There is a clear trend across all alcoholic beverage
categories towards sweeter tasting products. This is
in part due to changing consumption of soft drinks
by children. Since the end of the Second World War,
consumption of sweet soft drinks, like colas, by
children, has increased rapidly. A consequence of
this is that these consumers often find the taste
of many alcoholic drinks (which often have quite a
bitter taste profile) extremely challenging and this
has repercussions in terms of recruiting younger
(18-25 year old) drinkers into the alcohol category.
This drift towards sweeter drinks has manifested
itself in a number of ways. The popularity of milder,
less bitter beers (such as Foster’s, or the ‘mild’
beer trend in Germany); the growing popularity
of cider (especially fruit flavoured ciders); the
phenomenon of Flavoured Alcoholic Beverages (so-
called “alcopops”); the success of beers like Corona,
drunk with fruit in the neck; the current “cocktail”
craze; flavoured rums and vodkas; the continuing
popularity of liqueurs; and of course, flavoured
beers and beer mixes are all manifestations of a
Perhaps the most tangible driver is the
desire for something different than a
normal pils-style blonde lager. Craft
brewers, especially in the US, have been
very innovative in terms of educating
consumers. They have been particularly
active in matching beer with food (an
area that brewers have often left to wine
producers) and in sampling concepts.
The Rise of Craft Beer
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