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09/20/2017

Generic to Esoteric and Points Between: Notes on “Anti-Craft Craft,” Sours and More

Buzz-buzz: catch the latest? There aren’t any “crushable” craft beers so some folks wanna bring beers that drink “macro” but feel “craft” to the masses. Oh, and “Everyone is Suddenly Obsessed With Sour Beer.” Not quite. But these “news” stories include some notable tidbits. First, you may have seen handful of recent launches that fit the above description: an easy-drinking lager, perhaps even light lager, from a brand new brewing outfit, often contract brewing production of the beer, but hyper-focused on marketing fairly generic beer brands. You’ve heard this story before. House Beer has been in the market for a little while now. Folks from Colorado’s Dive Bar brand did interesting interview with Westword earlier this month. Music industry vets behind Day Beer from 24 Hour Beer co talked with Brewbound about their launch this week. Today, writer for Food & Wine roundly derided these launches as their “ideology is as flawed as their name is paradoxical,” referring to Day Beer’s insistence that it’s the “anti-craft craft beer.” Whatever your view of these attempts, note that the folks behind this last brand, certainly taking cues from at least some consumers, associate a certain hipness with the notion of “anti-craft.” Also note that the consumer desire all of these brands seek to satisfy is probably not a figment of their collective imaginations: a consumer who (at least sometimes) seeks something that feels like craft, but doesn’t exactly taste like what they’ve come to associate with craft. Hmm.

Another headline in the not-really-new department: TIME’s take on sours. “Everyone’s” been talking about sours for at least as long as Craft Brew News has been published. But the market really has been growing: BA-defined craft sours tracked by IRI off-premise data quintupled to over 245K cases in 2016, and up about 9% so far this yr. Up from just 45K cases in 2015. That ain’t big, but ain’t bad either. Much sour beer is consumed on-premise, either as special releases in brewery taprooms or alongside fine-dining, as the article notes, so won’t be included in those stats. Also not included? Non-BA-defined sour brands, like those AB acquired in the Wicked Weed portfolio or the kettle-soured Crush series from 10 Barrel.

Perhaps there’s the intersection of these two items. See also the obvious oppy Dogfish Head sees in its SeaQuench, above. Plenty of other breweries are finding quite a bit of success attracting folks to these semi-tart styles for drinking occasions often associated with beer. And plenty of other breweries finding ways to launch clearly-craft brands that speak to the same desires that the “anti-craft” folks hope to satisfy. A common thread across them? Volume potential. As brand new CEO of New Belgium, Steve Fechheimer, reminded us this week: if you look at the total “session beer” category, outside of craft, you’re looking at something like 150 mil bbls, or somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the market, by our count.

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2017
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue #: 82
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