Craft beer is a classic example of history repeating itself; what’s old is new once again.
What started for many people as a hobby enjoyed in individual garages and basements surged into the cultural mainstream as more people learned they loved to raise a glass with something other than the typical six-pack of beer.
Strong growth numbers for craft brewing
The craft brewing business boomed even during tough economic times. Over the last decade, the industry experienced unprecedented growth. In 2015, the craft beer sales market increased 15 percent to a total of $22.3 billion, according to the Brewers Association annual report. Total barrel production rose to 24.5 million in 2015 compared to only 10.1 million barrels back in 2010.
As of 2015, the number of United States’ craft breweries stood at 4,225 — compared to 1,754 locations just five years before.
Brewers tap into local demand for direction
Craft brewers and industry experts attribute the industry’s nationwide success to an interesting paradox in today’s culture: people’s modern tastes combined with a growing need to connect with our past.
Los Angeles-based marketing research company IBISWorld released a report in August 2015 highlighting craft beer’s diversity as a critical element to its rising popularity.
“The craft beer production industry brews virtually all styles of beer and regularly experiments with different ingredients to create variant styles of beer,” the IBISWorld report states. “As a result, the industry’s range of products is diverse.”
Craft beer brewers work with a variety of flavor profiles, including chocolate, vanilla, citrus (lemon, grapefruit), coffee, chai and much more to meet client demand.
“Public taste has changed,” said Amy Abbott, director of marketing and retail operations for the Motor City Brewing Works in Detroit, Michigan. “Right now, limited run beers are the big trend. As a brewery, we want to try to acknowledge the trends without becoming it.”
Rather than having eyes on the big prize of national distribution, many craft brewers understand the need to tap into their community’s preferences to continue their business’ growth.
According to a 2015 Nielsen Marketing research study, consumers’ desire for locally sourced beer is on the rise.
“Consumers' desire to search for and buy local is growing,” the report found. “Among all alcoholic beverage categories, local has grown in importance the most among beer drinkers. In fact, 22 percent of beer drinkers said they think the importance of being made locally has grown over the last couple of years, compared with 14 percent of wine drinkers and only 5 percent of spirit drinkers.”
Abbott said she’s noticed this market shift and emphasizes its importance to craft brewing.
“If you look at craft beer in the market, what was considered alternative in the early 90s has become mainstream,” she said. “It’s as if it became mainstream thanks to social media. Because of that, I think people are more educated about the product now. They have more choices, more experiences to pull from.”
Abbott believes the public has connected so much with craft breweries and taprooms because they recapture a sense of community.
“Because there is so much choice, you have to be in line with the needs of the local community,” she said. “Motor City Brewing Works has a space that feels warm and hospitable. To be successful these days, you need to understand people are going to have some sort of brand loyalty. We connect with our customers, work really well with our neighbors and have a great relationship with our artistic communities through things like sponsorships. That is why were are still here and that is what will sustain us in the long run.”