Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Who Drinks Craft Beer?

I recently read Brett VanderKamp's new book Art in Fermented Form: A Manifesto. Brett is the president of New Holland Brewing and Artisan Spirits in Holland, Michigan.  In the book, he reflected on a time in US history when people only drank locally produced beer made from locally grown ingredients and he hopes that one day this paradigm will return.  He also talked about the success of the craft beer movement and the 5% market share that they have been able to carve out for themselves. As I read, I began to wonder; who is the average craft beer drinker, and does 5% market share mean that only 5% of beer drinkers drink craft?  Surely not.

I reflected on my own beer drinking habits.  I almost always drink craft beer but there are times when its not available or I just feel like having an import beer or even a tall boy of PBR in Dolores Park. Among my peers in San Francisco this drinking pattern seems to be the norm.  But, given the fact that 90% of the beer market is controlled by two companies, I have a sneaking suspicion that my peers and I are the outliers.  Unsatisfied with pure speculation, I decided to look for numbers to find out who drinks craft beer.

Mintel, a data analysis and marketing strategy company, has released a couple of studies about recent trends in craft beer consumption.  According to their research, about 36% of all beer drinkers consume craft beer, in varying degrees. Nielsen had similar results with about 1/3 of beer drinkers buying craft.  Looking further into Mintel's Craft Beer Survey from November, 2012 I was able to get more information about who makes up their 36% of craft beer drinkers. Some of the data was what I expected but some of it was quite surprising.

By far, the most frequent consumers of craft beer are white males between 25 and 34 years old. However, what shocked me the most was how infrequent consumers drank craft beer. 80% of everyone who drank craft  did so less than once a week. Given that the per capita consumption of beer in the US is about 3 pints a week, even those who drink craft beer are doing so very infrequently. What also surprised me was where most craft beer drinker live.  59% of them live in the suburbs, which is more than double the amount of craft drinkers in urban areas.  Finally, looking at the largest segment of each category in their survey, it seems to suggest that the average craft beer drinker is a white male between 35-54 years old who lives in the suburbs, makes an annual income of between $100-149K and who only drinks craft beer less than once a week.* This is not what I expected to find.

What does this all mean? First, this has helped me understand why craft beer only has 5% market share.  It also tells me that Brett's dream of a return to a world where most people drink locally produced craft beer is a long way off.  In the meantime, I will continue to do my part and take advantage of all the great craft and local beers available in San Francisco.


The above infographics were created with Infogram from the statistics generously provided by Mintel.

* I have no training in statistics, so this may not be the description of the average craft beer drinker. 

Sources Cited