Craft beer, ciders and malternatives (malt alternatives such as Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade) were a hot topic at the 2015 Beverage Executive Symposium. The Boston Beer Company’s director of national on-premise accounts, Scott Hempstead, shared valuable trend information.
To kick things off, Scott explained the term “craft” as it relates to beer. Craft, he said, relates to more than just the ingredients and process of brewing the beer. It also refers to the ownership of the brewery and the size of production. For more information, the Brewers Association has additional definitions of both craft beer and craft beer terms.
As far as trends to watch, Millennials continue to drive 2 trends: beverages with intense flavor (Starbucks coffee, IPAs, and Red Bull) and sweet beverage products (for example, Coca-Cola and Gatorade). Sweet has become a strong trend, as evidenced by the popularity of Budweiser’s Lime-A-Rita, Angry Orchard ciders, Redd's Apple Ale, products from The Traveler Beer Co., Leinenkugel's shandies, and hard sodas like Not Your Father's Root Beer. What doesn’t seem to be working well on-premise are flavored malt beverages (FMBs) such as Lime-A-Rita, Mike's Hard Lemonade, and Twisted Tea.
Scott pointed out that nitro beers will be a strong trend going forward. Seeming to confirm this informed prediction, Sam Adams has introduced a nitro stout since BES 2015. High-gravity beers are also growing in popularity: 37% of beer drinkers have tried higher-ABV beers and would try them again, according to a Mintel report released this year. Beers with an ABV of 7% equal a 10% increase in the market while those with an ABV of 8.5% are up 22 percent. In terms of the meteoric style that is IPA, beers within this category that have an ABV of 8% or higher are growing 25% year to date. Generally speaking, high-gravity beers are often the hottest and hardest to obtain due the demand.
Scott advises operators to consider having a serving process based upon ABV to avoid overconsumption. He suggests deciding which ABV is high gravity for your venue and serving it in a vessel smaller than a pint glass. Speaking of glassware, a focus on style-specific serving vessels has already proven to be a trend worth embracing. Finally, expect beers with sweet flavor profiles, more ciders, and more shandies to rise in demand.