A majority of the beer brewed in Texas isn’t classified as “craft,” as smaller in-state producers only account for about 2 percent of the roughly 20 million barrels produced in the Lone Star State.
Speaking to a crowd of beer industry professionals during last week’s Brew Talks meetup in Austin, Texas, Bob Leggett, owner of Artisanal Imports and the Uncle Billy’s and Pedernales beer brands, highlighted the difference in market share between locally produced beer and more mainstream offerings.
Although there appears to be a lot of runway for Texas craft beer companies to capture additional sales, converting consumers won’t easy due to an oversaturated marketplace, he said.
“I have 100 percent confidence that Texas is moving in the right direction and will continue to move in the right direction,” Leggett said.
Leggett was joined on the panel, which looked at evolving portfolio strategies, by Independence Brewing Company co-founder Amy Cartwright and Dogfish Head vice president of sales Todd Bollig, who shared an outsider’s perspective of Texas — an area of the U.S. he call “a country” unto itself with unique consumers across the state.
Bollig stressed the importance of not “cheapening” the craft category and continuing to play in the “high end.”
“If we begin to cheapen the category, we aren’t going to educate consumers why craft beer is a better option for them,” he said.
Meanwhile Cartwright shared frustration with witnessing consumers spending $200 on wine but buying the cheapest beer on the shelf. She said beer companies need to find ways to engage those consumers, get them excited about their offerings and trade them up.
“We have to do better in terms of winning that share back,” she added.
Bollig echoed those sentiments by saying that the beer industry also needs to figure out how to bring new legal-drinking-age consumers into the category, a task he believes is going to require “three-to-five years of work.”
“If craft is up 5 percent [according to the Brewers Association] but there are 20 percent more breweries than there were a year ago, that math doesn’t add up,” he said. “And how does craft continue to work among itself without imploding and everyone fighting for dollars and driving pricing down because there’s a lot of capacity out there? That’s the wildcard in this. And I don’t think anyone knows that answer.”
“It’s going to get tougher, not easier,” Leggett added.
Bollig, Cartwright and Leggett share their thoughts on creating new drinking occasions, chasing trends, deciding where to invest and more in the video above.