The common thread linking each of those brands? They’re all less than 5 percent ABV and marketed to consumers as “drinkable,” “crushable,” “light,” or “easygoing.”
In recent years, an increasing number of craft breweries have introduced more sessionable offerings in an attempt to appeal to a growing faction of beer drinkers looking for craft brewed alternatives to more mainstream products from Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, which collectively control about 70 percent of beer category volume.
According to market research firm IRI Worldwide, off-premise sales of craft golden ales were up 12.8 percent year-to-date through April 22. Meanwhile, craft pale lagers grew by more than 50 percent and craft light beer grew 37 percent during the same period.
It’s not just the established craft beer players who are pushing out these types of products, either. Smaller companies, including Boston-based Night Shift Brewing and California’s Figueroa Mountain Brewing, have rolled out light lagers of their own.
“If you look at existing light beer options, it becomes clear that there’s a lot of overlap: bland flavors, redundant branding, macro-brewery after macro-brewery,” Night Shift co-founder Rob Burns said in March. “We think customers deserve better than this sea of sameness.”
And numerous 2018 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) attendees agree with Burns. When asked by Brewbound what trends they were watching, nearly everyone interviewed pointed to lagers.
“I think there’s definitely a trend toward more sessionable beers,” said Nancy Palmer, the executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. “A lot of breweries are looking at pilsners or lagering, generally, and understanding how to make lagers profitable is going to be a little bit of a challenge for our brewers who are used to turning around ales a lot faster.”
Hear what Palmer and other CBC attendees had to say about marketplace trends in the video above.