While craft beer is booming, certain sectors of craft beer are doing even better than others. Take a look at the IPA. It accounted for 25% of craft beer growth between 2013 and 2014 and they don’t show any signs of stopping. We’ve reported on all sorts of projected trends for 2015. Those ranged from Speers, to non alcoholic and low alcohol beers.
For years, at least in the US to the every day beer drinker, the lager has been perceived as being “lesser than” to the great ales of the world. No doubt a result of it’s association with the macro beers like Budweiser and Coors. But with craft beer awareness at an all-time high, lagers are getting the recognition they deserve.
Bellingham’s own Chuckanut Brewery makes some of the best lagers in the world. Seriously, they actually beat out Germany. GERMANY. Lagers are the crisp beer you reach for on a sunny day, but, if you’re a craft beer fan, you still want taste. Craft brewers are offering lighter bodied beers like IPL and Session Lagers that move us away from the hop bombs many of us love.
According to Bart Watson, The Brewers Association’s Chief Economist, lagers saw 56% growth in the first month of 2015.
1. The Market Evidence
There are already signs in the scan data of craft lagers taking off. Although amber and pale lagers didn’t stand out in scans, pilsners announced themselves in the first month of 2015 with 56% growth versus a year ago (Source: IRI Group, MULO+C, YTD through 1-25-15). It’s not hard to see why. Going booth to booth at the recent craft brewer pavilion at the National Grocers Association show, nearly every brewer had a great pilsner. Some were brands that have been around for a while, but there were plenty of new additions. Those new entries are combining with longer-term brands to create new excitement around pilsners.
2. The Capacity Equation
Lagers take more time and capacity to produce. I was talking to a brewery rep recently about their pilsner, and he commented that they loved it, but they could make four batches of IPA in the time it took to produce the pilsner. Because this brewery is growing fast enough to strain their capacity, it’s a simple business decision to make more IPA over pilsner.
Those days can’t last forever, and I think as growth inevitably slows a tad (it can’t be this fast on larger and larger bases forever), brewers are going to start thinking about what to do with their capacity and realize that lagers are a great way to use any excess capacity.
Serious Eats goes into a bit more of an editorial on why we can expect to see more lagers in 2015
Why Lager Is on the Rise
While craft beer’s current identity in the US was formed around amber ales, pale ales, and IPAs, lagers will play an important part in its future.
For a long time, craft beer devotees viewed pale lagers as the enemy. These beers represented all that craft wasn’t: mass-produced, boring (or worse, offensive) beers made for red plastic cups. But we’ve come a long way from “Fizzy yellow beer is for wussies,” and craft beer doesn’t have quite as much to prove now as it did when its market share was close to zero. Many of us like fizzy yellow beer, and with that out in the open, we can demand better quality.