BA Economist: Lighter, Sessionable Offerings Could Drive Craft Volumes


Don’t hold your breath waiting for the next IPA, because there won’t be one. Not in the near future anyway, according to Bart Watson, staff economist for the Brewers Association. The style has just grown at too rapid a clip to be replicated: in just seven years, the IPA has gone from accounting for less than 8 percent of all craft volume to more than 27 percent, according to Watson, citing IRI scan data.

Nonetheless, Watson, writing for the trade group’s website, suggests a few other styles could emerge in the years to come as legitimate craft volume drivers. And they’ll likely be of a less audaciously hopped variety. Watson says the emerging styles “share a number of characteristics, primarily the ability to still pack flavor into lighter, more sessionable styles.”

Specifically, he points to blonde, kölsch, and golden ales, sales of which, grouped together, are up nearly 60 percent year to date, selling more volume than stouts, porters and Belgian ales. Watson notes, however, that Firestone Walker’s 805, a blonde ale, accounts for more than 40 percent of the entire segment. Despite that, he compared the growth of the grouping of styles to that of lagers, saying the increased interest is indicative of a consumer shift toward lighter, less aggressively hopped beers (not that the hop bombs are going anywhere soon).

Watson also dispelled the notion that sour beers are on the cusp of taking over the category; they’re too difficult to make with scale and are often sold at an uncomfortable price point, he says. But the gose seems to be making waves. The style, low on hop bitterness and often grouped with sours, has seen a spike in Google searches, namely in the southeast in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Virginia. The Google trend data analyzed suggests a more summer seasonal interest in the style, but regardless, Watson says the gose “looks like a growing player in a large niche.”

Though both groupings of styles swim against the tides of conventional wisdom – the hoppier the better – they also seem to be viable options for brewers looking to deviate from the beaten path.