There has been a lot of talk lately about how millennials are “killing” the beer industry as they begin drinking more wine and cocktails. If you look at the broader numbers, though, the picture as a whole, that’s a pretty ridiculous claim. Beer is booming, and it is in part thanks to those hipsters with two dogs, no kids, who are sporting beards and fiercely loyal to good beer.
According to the Brewers Association, craft breweries have skyrocketed in just the last seven years. In 2009 there were 1,596 operating craft breweries in the United States. By the end of 2016 that number had increased to 5,234. This is the golden age of beer! As Big Beer has seen its share of the market dwindle a little bit here and a little bit there over the last decade and more, smaller breweries have blossomed.
In 2016, small and independent craft brewers made up 12 percent of the beer market. That’s not a lot, but it’s more than it was just a decade or so ago. This industry is expanding by leaps and bounds, and is manned by passionate men and women who love beer, and want to share that with like-minded people.
In fact, 99 percent of the beer market is made up of small and independent brewers, and they account for nearly 130,000 jobs. Those jobs require skill, some serious tastebuds, and a passion for beer, and you know what? They’re growing. Now 7,000 more people work at small and independent craft breweries than did in 2015. That’s a huge improvement and a sector of the economy that can provide jobs for those who lose them in other industries. Beer is booming.
So Whence Comes the News of Beer’s Death?
So what does all this chatter mean about Millennials and beer? Let’s take a look.
The study getting a lot of attention right now comes from Goldman Sachs, experts of the beer industry in their 100-story, multi-million-dollar apartments in Manhattan. </sarcasm> The investment firm downgraded the Boston Beer Company (the makers of Sam Adams, one of the original “craft beers”) and Constellation Brands, a gigantic company that owns a bevy of beer brands and imports big ‘uns like Corona and Modelo. Neither of these are your typical craft brewery. Sam Adams surely gets some credit for helping kick off the “other than Bud, Miller, and Coors” game, but they’re pretty big these days, and just because Constellation owns a few smaller breweries out of their very large portfolio doesn’t mean you can extrapolate it to the entire market.
Ethan Epstein at The Weekly Standard did some digging and calls into question a lot of the Goldman claims, particularly the assault on millennials. Now, I’m not one to defend hipsters, but in this case the numbers and the culture just don’t support the claims. As I already noted, the small brewery industry is booming, and as it turns out people in my age bracket just above millennial are apparently curtailing their beer consumption. It’s not a whole-hog millennial assault.
Blame Gen Xers, Not Millennials
Ethan found that the consumption of beer has tanked in the 35-44 age group, not millennials. The numbers for millennials aren’t as bad. Many of these drinkers are moving towards wine and liquor. Now, I love wine. I love cocktails. I love beer (obviously). I fit in that 35-44 age range, and I haven’t made drastic cuts in my beer consumption, and neither have a lot of my friends of a similar age.
As I already pointed out, this is the golden age of beer. People are embracing the potential of beer. It doesn’t have to be a tasteless, big-name brew. The world of beer is humongous, and folks the world over are embracing that today.
If it were so bad, would private equity investors be interested? If it were so bad, would the big brewers keep sucking up good breweries at a rapid pace? If it were so bad, would sales and job growth in the small and independent breweries be increasing? I think not.
Beer is here to stay and better than ever. Crack open a cold one and toast to American ingenuity, and the expanding flavor palate of the world’s beer drinkers!