Trendy Beers: A Bad Business Decision?

Boston Beer Company’s slumping sales have been a topic of conversation in the craft beer community. Author Jeff Alworth blames the company’s propensity to chase trends. Alworth explains:

Boston Beer has made a series of decisions that may have resulted in short-term profits–spinning off alcoholic apple juice, tea, and seltzer divisions–but they enhanced the sense that this was a big company as bland and personality-free as Kellogg’s or Proctor and Gamble. No one could ever fault Sam Adams for failing to release new beers, but the ever-multiplying new lines of random beer types (IPAs, barrel-aged beers, nitro cans) has created a brewery with no there there.

Trend-chasing isn’t limited to Boston Beer. Breweries across the country are scrambling to bring out their versions of grapefruit IPAs, golden ales, and New England IPAs. If the past is any indication—remember the wheat beers of the 1990s?—today’s fad beers stay trendy very long.

According to Alworth, breweries that specialize in trendy beers fail to establish a connection with their customers. That connection is more important with beer than with other consumer products. He cites four examples—Sierra Nevada, Hill Farmstead, Schlenkerla, and Genesee—each of which has a distinct “personality”. Those personalities are built in collaboration with their drinkers, who expect the beer will embody that personality.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • U.S. Senate sponsors of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act: 51.
  • U.S. House sponsors of that bill: 100.
  • Value of Ireland’s beer exports in 2015: €265 million ($300 million).
  • Increase over 2014: 16 percent.
  • Average cost of a pint of beer in the UK this year: £3.47 ($4.61).
  • Increase over last year: 1p.
  • Licensed premises’ share of UK beer sales in 2015: 49 percent. For the first time in history, it fell below 50 percent.
  • Decline in UK licensed premises’ beer sales from 1980 until 2015: 44 percent.
  • Projected U.S. hop harvest for this year: 92 million pounds.
  • Acres of U.S. farmland on which hops are currently grown: 51,000.
  • Increase over 2011 acreage: 20,000 acres (64.5 percent).
  • Tax revenue from legal marijuana sales in Washington State in 2015: $64.6 million.
  • Tax revenue from beer sales in Washington State in 2015: $30.8 million.
  • Market capitalization of merged corporations SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev: $245 billion.
  • SAB Miller-Anheuser-Busch InBev merger’s rank on the all-time mergers list: 4th. The combined company is the world’s fifth-largest brand.
  • The Friday Mash

    Here are a few stories that caught our attention this past week:

    Back home after Baltimore Beer Week, “Joe Sixpack” of the Philadelphia Daily News writes about Boog Powell and the Beer Week trend….Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog did a little digging into the Monster-versus-Rock Art trademark fight….The Guardian comments on Newcastle Brown Ale’s new home: John Smiths Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, where the beer is already bottled….And finally, Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin reviews “99 Bottles of Beer,” an exhibition of beer-related art from 2500 B.C. to the present at the University of California, Berkeley.

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