It was a pleasant Friday evening at SingleCut brewery in Astoria Queens where I found myself posted up at the bar drinking a 37th st New World Lager. Dry, clean and with a bit of crispness, Singlecut’s self-proclaimed ode to traditional lagering is made with all American ingredients and a gentle dry-hopping – 5% ABV, 37 IBU.
They had just released two canned brews, the brand new aforementioned 37th st and the other a staple amongst their IIPAs Full Stack - a floral and piney brew with notes of citrus on the nose and tongue, 8.6% ABV 137 IBU.
Most of the Singlecut crew was at the Beer Advocate Micro Brew Invitational held at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA. The Celebration of Old-School, Small-Batch Brewing featured hundreds of beers, ciders, meads, kombuchas and sakes. So this release was void of some of the usual flair that SingleCut releases are accustomed to. With that said the place drew a nice crowd which only continued to grow as I continued to knock back delicious brew after brew.
The bartenders were just changing shifts as I placed an order with Salt and Bone, Astoria’s first no gas kitchen. I was looking forward to my wood fire Hawaiian Tacos but needed to kill some time. Being the occasional introvert that I am I shunned conversation and human interaction and instead thumbed through my phone looking at a news feed while sipping on beer.
I can hear my wife’s words echoing as I type this – ‘network, network, network!’ I can promise that some value and creativity spurred from this rudimentary and simplistic exercise of being glued to my smart phone also known as the vacuum time suck, at least I hope. I came across the following BBC headline:
People are drinking fewer alcoholic drinks, according to a new industry report tracking consumption worldwide.
How could this be I thought? Curiosity had peaked so I read on (bullshit was actually the first thought that came to mind and I needed to kill time until my tacos were ready so I clicked the link and read on). The article noted that Beer sales continued to slide last year and the trend towards cider sipping stalled. The global market for all alcoholic drinks contracted 1.3% in 2016, driven by a 1.8% fall in beer sales, the International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR) found. Cider sales went in reverse, down 1.5% after several years of growth (www.bbc.com).
Beer sales in China fell 4.2%, were down 5.3% in Brazil and dipped 7.8% in Russia likely due to an economic slowdown or recession.
The global beer market is primarily represented by what can be considered the big boys or key players and regardless of our opinions of them these are the current heavyweights in the game:
• Heineken N.V.
• SABMiller Plc.
• Anheuser-Busch InBev
• Carlsberg Group
• United Breweries Group (UB Group)
• Diageo Plc.
• Tsingtao Brewery
• Molson Coors Brewing Company
• Boston Beer Company
• Beijing Yanjing Brewery
And it’s the big boys who most likely took a majority of the hit.
An Allied Market Research report indicated that the Global beer market is expected to garner $688.4 billion by 2020
It went on to note that the global beer market is primarily driven by the increasing disposable incomes and changing lifestyles. The growing adoption of craft beer and the rising number of restaurants and bars would further accelerate the growth of the beer market. There has also been a rise in the adoption of craft beer as consumers want to explore different beer flavors (alliedmarketresearch.com).
Flavor is what was at the center of the craft beer boom and still is its most enticing and prosperous quality. People want to feel, we feel through our senses, we feel with and through others. If craft is flavor focused then flavor is a conduit to good experience and hence reinforces the communal nature that craft beer fosters.
CRAFT BEER – As Told By Numbers
At this point of my research the tacos arrived and I was another beer deep, drinking Softly Spoken Magic Spells – a citrusy and dank double IPA with an 8.6% ABV 130 IBU. I paused to reflect, but mostly to devour my tacos. I go to a lot of bars and breweries and as far as I can tell local craft beer enthusiasm has not declined, at least not in New York. I turned to the Brewers Association for some data and numbers.
How does New York Stack Up?
269 Craft Breweries – Ranks 4th
1.9 Breweries per Capita - Ranks 31st - *per 100,000 21+ Adults
ECONOMIC IMPACT (2014) - 2,921 Million Economic Impact - Ranks 4th
201.88 Impact per Capita - Ranks 35th
PRODUCTION - 1,000,785 Barrels of Craft Beer Produced per Year - Ranks 9th
2.1 Gallons per 21+ Adult – Ranks 23rd
Some highlights from the Brewers Association data are as follows:
There are now 5,005 breweries in the U.S. compared to 10,000 wineries. Almost all (99%) are small and independent craft brewers. Great news for supporters of those willing to push the complexities of the flavor spectrum.
IPAs account for roughly one-quarter of craft volume. More sessionable styles, including golden ales, pilsners and pale lagers, are up 33 percent, totaling nearly five percent of craft.
The National Homebrew Competition continues to be the world’s largest beer competition with 7,962 entries. A recent measurement of homebrewing found that its 1.2 million participants created over 11,000 jobs, resulting in more than $1 billion in spending and over $700 million in revenues.
Craft beer export volume increased by 16.3 percent, totaling 446,151 barrels and worth $116 million. More than 100 small and independent craft brewers export their beer internationally, spreading the culture and community of craft beer and a growing recognition and respect for American brewers.
With support from the Brewers Association, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced that it will launch a three-year initiative to collect, document and preserve the history of brewing, craft brewers and the beer industry in America. The job posting for a Historian to study brewing history was one of the most viral beer stories of the year, an indicator of how much people care about this vital industry.
Note: Figures are a compilation of data provided by the Brewers Association, IRI Group and Nielsen and do not represent all craft beer sales.
With the tacos demolished and the research session brought to a close I figured my efforts warranted one final beer – Strange Shadows from the Flames - an American Stout brewed with NYS Cherry wood smoked malt and infused with Oregon Honey - 7.2% ABV 40 IBU.
Craft beer consumption and production seem to be in a good place for now, but economy, health and wellness and over saturation within the market could impact future sales. We can only hope that artists of brewing continue to put flavor first and push the boundaries that defy our expectations. As they say only time will tell.
What do you think? Is the craft beer scene alive and well? Do you think it will continue to grow or is the bubble about to bust? Comment below!
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