After a banner few years, the craft beer revolution may finally be winding down but its effect on the wider drinks industry certainly shows no signs of going away writes Michelle Noakes.
Craft beer – the category that everyone’s been talking about. Few agree on its definition but everyone has noticed the waves it has made in the drinks industry. With its wacky brews, artistic labels and rule-breaking style of communication, craft beer has dominated headlines, boardroom discussions, and even bar chat over the last few years, with many consumers often willing to pay more for their quirky pint.
With reports over the past few years of craft beer sales rising, and that of mainstream lagers falling, you’d be forgiven for thinking craft beer was a huge category. But it is not. Craft beer makes up a small proportion of the total beer market.
So how did a small category make such a big impact in a short amount of time?
Of course craft breweries have always been there, but for many years they flew under the radar and were championed mainly by ale enthusiasts, while the vast majority of us drank mainstream lager. The US led the charge with the craft beer movement and companies like Meantime became the pioneers of modern craft beer in the UK, with the likes of Brewdog tearing up the communications rule book and prepared to shock us.
It was the start of a revolution in beer, that would change the landscape. According to the SIBA British Craft Beer Report 2019, craft beer has helped boost the overall beer market which saw growth of 2.6% in 2018, which the report says, is the biggest increase for 45 years. Good news for everyone then.
Discussions around craft beer today have turned more towards questioning the future of the category. There have been reports of craft beer’s growth starting to level off and the rate of new breweries opening is beginning to slow. Some beer commentators have questioned whether the craft beer craze has gone too far, and that if you dare to go off-piste and try ordering a new craft ale, there is a very real risk that your expensive pint will be overly hopped, unbalanced and almost undrinkable. So maybe the bubble is about to burst? Whatever its future, the impact of the craft beer revolution will be long felt across the beer and drinks world.
Other categories, including wine, have arguably taken inspiration from craft and we’re seeing some much more creative packaging on our supermarket shelves and in terms of communication, some of the major players of the beer world are talking to us in way more akin to craft. Carlsberg Export launched a bold redesign to pay homage to its Danish heritage after which the company focused on its core brew admitting they were “probably NOT the best beer in the world” before launching a rebrewed version to critical acclaim. Other mainstream beer brands have moved steadily away from the more laddish advertising that lager was once associated with.
So, whether or not the craft beer boom continues at pace, as consumers we can be grateful for the new energy it has brought and positive impact and choice it has had across the drinks industry.