For the first time, the 3 best-selling beers in America are light beers. Can craft brewers catch up?

Is it time for the King of Beers to hand over its crown?

Preliminary analysis of national 2017 beer sales indicates that, for the first time in decades, Budweiser is no longer one of the top three beer brands sold in the United States. Bud Light, which has been the best-selling beer in America since knocking Budweiser into second place in 2001, retains the top position. Coors Light, which passed Bud to become the country’s No. 2 beer in 2011, remains in second place.

Then comes the shock: Miller Lite has returned to the top three, narrowly edging out Budweiser.

Budweiser’s sales have been shrinking for decades, says Eric Shepard, the executive editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade publication focused on beer industry statistics and trends. Anheuser-Busch’s flagship beer now sells less than a third as much as it did in 1988, when the market was less crowded. “It was inevitable, looking at Budweiser’s trajectory, that Miller Lite was going to pass them.”

All four of America’s best-selling beers posted declining domestic sales in 2017, according to market research firm IRI, which tracks sales at “off-premise” locations like supermarkets and convenience stores. Budweiser’s revenue was up 4.4 percent outside the U.S. It’s just that Miller Lite’s 1.6 percent volume decline was “better” than Budweiser’s 5.9 percent drop in its home country.

How momentous is Budweiser’s slip? Sales data from Beer Marketer’s Insights goes back to 1977, and “you’d have to go back far earlier to a year when Bud was not in the top three,” Shepard says. But there’s another cultural marker at play: For the first time ever, the three best-selling beers in America are all light, reduced-calorie domestic lagers. Even for our diet/calorie/Crossfit-obsessed nation, that seems odd.

Craft beer fans, of course, have long mocked macrobrews as watery and flavorless, and that quest for beer with more intense flavors and aromas is what has propelled craft beer to a $23 billion industry. While IPAs still make up a disproportionate amount of craft sales, accounting for more than a quarter of all dollars in the category, one of the fastest-growing segments is decidedly less hoppy and in-your-face – two characteristics that describe why a majority of Americans prefer big corporate lagers to strong, bitter IPAs. Golden ales – also known as blonde ales – have been tipped to be “the next big thing” for years, thanks to astonishing year-on-year growth rates, including a 62 percent increase in 2015, and a 41 percent gain in 2017.

Some of craft’s biggest names have been jumping in: 2017 saw the releases of Green Flash’s GFB blonde, New Belgium’s Dayblazer golden ale, and Uinta’s eye-catching Park Series Golden Ale, which featured outdoorsy illustrations of National Parks on its cans. These are refreshing, easy-drinking ales, with alcohol-by-volume percentages hovering around 5 percent or less. While they have a similar ABV to Budweiser, the craft options have comparatively more hops and flavor than macrobrews – though noticeably less than other beers from the same brewery.

They’re also pricier than Big Beer: At …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – News


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