A place for every generation in craft beer?

“Active lifestyle beer” was one of the fastest growing craft beer styles in 2019. In an interview in “The Beer Connoisseur” with Jim Koch and Sam Calgione of Sam Adams/Dogfish Sam says about 2020 trends: The biggest trend consumers will experience in 2020 is lower-calorie, lower-carb craft beers that still feature interesting flavors. This movement is something that really caught fire in 2019, and I think we’re going to see even more options next year. With millennial drinkers so focused on maintaining active, balanced lifestyles that include both exercising and enjoying flavorful, well-differentiated craft beers, the lower-calorie, lower-carb area is simply one that brewers cannot overlook.”

I don’t usually like to promote my own writing, but I do think that I can point out that back in 2013 I was talking enthusiastically about the wonders lower carb, lower calorie craft beer with real flavor. In my blog post of January 2 2013 (over 7 yeas ago) I wrote: “And good, flavorful craft beer, unfortunately is full of those carbs that raise your sugar levels.

So, do you “give up beer”? Resign yourself to Miller/Bud Lites?” At that time I explained that home brewing was just about the only way to get good flavored lighter hoppy beers.

According to a Nielsen survey published in the “New Brewer” Magazine from December 2019 (published by the Brewers Association) we are told that when consumers look beyond flavor in their beer experience, they are looking at the following four things in order of preference: Local ingredients, Low Calorie, Organic and Low Carb.

In the same article, Bart Watson – the BA’s economist says ”As millennials age…the oldest millennials are reaching their late 30’s – it makes sense that some of them would look for different beer options…“ Bart goes on to talk about “lifestyle beers” being here to stay.

Sure Millennials like their beer and lifestyle… but not only them

The point of this article is not just that healthier – but still flavorful – beer is a growing market, though lighter “golden ales” and “pale ales” are taking a much larger market share than ever before. The point is in both of the references to “lifestyle beers” above, there is statement that that this trend is due to the rise of the millennials – and their passion for health and ingesting “good for you” food and drink. That may be true, but there are others out there looking for good craft healthier beers as well.

Another significant market out there looking for a high flavor low impact drinking experience are that large number of aging baby boomers who grew up on craft beer. Hey, the boomers created craft beer to begin with – and a lot of them still want to drink it, and enjoy it. As Sam from Dogfish reportedly said: “Our metabolism is slowing down”.

Yes, there are still lots of beer fanatic boomers out there – in most cases with more disposable income and time on their hands to consume craft beer than millennials. Statistics suggest that while they are not the most prolific craft beer drinkers – they are stubbornly loyal to craft beer. (See the chart from New Brewer below showing that the 50+ craft drinkers are staying true to craft more than any other age demographic.)

But do we see the boomers in advertisements for “Michelob Ultra” or even “St Archer Gold”? No, instead we see frolicking (and noticeably thin) millennials out for a good time at the beach or at a club (after kayaking) while Dad and Mom are at home watching “This is Us”. In my view that show is much better along with a couple of “Slightly Mighty” session IPA’s from Dogfish.

I remember Brian Hunt of Moonlight Brewing of the San Francisco explaining to me once “I like to be able to drink a few beers and still have a good conversation”  describing his preference for lighter alcohol beers. And today, a good conversation may be replaced with Twitter or Texting, but coherence still matters when you are enjoying each other’s company.That is not a generational thing, or is it?

Let’s face it – craft beer producers and marketers are missing a huge opportunity to connect with the 50 plus year old craft beer enthusiasts – who would likely not eventually turn away from craft beer if there was one that better suited their health and lifestyles.

The boomers still enjoy their craft beer!

Why not craft low carb for the mature set? Next time you are at a craft brewery or tap room and you scan the crowd – you will see that along with the millennials and their kids and friends, there are a good number of the older set enjoying their beer – and often they enjoy the lighter styles.

Do we envision a line up of beers named:

  • “Get Off My Lawn” Mower Kolsch
  • Heart and Liver Pils
  • Mall Walker Session IPA
  • “Old Dog” Fish Hoppy Lager
  • New Belgium “Spare Tire” Ale

OK, maybe not (that was that “old man humor”) but anyway, let’s “tap” that market – and keep sharing the craft for as many generations for as long as we can.

Of course Garrett Oliver still drinks craft beer