Flavor, unusual styles and a local focus are bringing microbrews to the masses.
Thirsty? Grab a beer!
Just a few years ago it used to be that simple, but now drinkers want more: flavor, new styles, food pairings, and perhaps a beer’s golden ticket: a local origin.
All of these things have become important to serious beer drinkers as the craft beer movement continues to gain momentum.
Strong flavors rule, and session beers and different styles of beer are all the rage—whether it’s an IPA (India Pale Ale), a stout, a Hefeweisen or a Belgian Trippel.
And craft breweries are popping up across the country. There are 1,700 breweries in the U.S. today, more than there’s ever been since the late 1800s, and 97 percent of them are considered small and independent, according to the Brewers Association.
“These are historic beer times and we’re in the middle of them,” says Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the association in Boulder, Colorado. “People support these beers because they understand what’s behind those brands and understand what it took to become a viable business.”
And the numbers back Herz up. Beer is a $101 billion business in the U.S., which equals the wine and spirits businesses combined, Herz says. But still, just 7.6 percent of those sales come from small and independent craft brewers, though their beers saw sales increases of 12 percent last year, compared with 10.3 percent in 2009.
Fueling the growth of craft beers is the speedy adoption by restaurants, brewpubs, bars and even family chain restaurants.
Chains Get Crafty
Applebee’s is one of those chains, and it offers craft brews alongside traditional domestic beers.
“Domestic light beers are still the best sellers, but the growing popularity of craft beers is significant,” says Brian Masilionis, the chain’s senior manager of beverage. “Applebee’s is a neighborhood grill and bar, so we offer local beers that guests love.”