Filtering Through Brewtally Awful Beer Analogies for the Facts

Craft beer is going flat!

No, it's foaming over!

It's sort of flat but also foamy!


Or, more accurately, analogeeeeeeeeez, enough already!

Everyone knows a good pun is its own reword.

Maybe craft beer has jumped the shark - usually when stories start showing up everywhere in the media about the "newest craze," the topic has become tired and sort of lame. And no, I'm not one of those people who think a band has "sold out" because more than 5 people have heard of them. I think it's great that so many people want to support an industry I love that is usually comprised of small local businesses. I equate people talking about the "craft beer craze" with my mom using slang that's a few years past its prime - like when my 10-year-old niece turns 16 and gets a car, my mom will probably un-ironically say it's on fleek.

However, the statistics don't necessarily tell the entire story and need to be sussed out a little. According to Nielsen data, craft beer sales have increased by 6% this year. Two years ago, craft beer sales increased by 19%. The market share of the top 10 craft brewers has slipped to 39%, from 50%.

But wait, the number of craft breweries in the U.S. increased 14% between 2014 and 2015. But if craft beer is declining, how are the number of craft breweries increasing?

First, we have to recognize that when some reports say "craft" beer, the products they're thinking of tend to fall into the "crafty" beer category. Crafty beer doesn't mean beer that's good at Pinterest projects, but rather that it is beer made by macro brewers but marketed as craft beer. Examples of crafty beer include Blue Moon and Shock Top. In fact, if you take Blue Moon and Shock Top out of the equation, craft beer growth is actually 9%, not 6%.

Second, the definition of "craft" beer according to the Brewers Association is malleable and still accommodates larger craft brewers like Boston Beer Company, known for producing Sam Adams. Boston Beer has also lost market share with the rise of craft beer. To be considered a "craft brewer" by the Brewers Association, a brewer must be small (produce less than 6 million barrels of beer annually); independent (less than 25% owned or controlled by mass brewers); and traditional (derives flavor from use of traditional or innovative ingredients and their fermentation.) As an aside, I don't really get how a brewer can be "traditional" by innovating, but whatevs. A few years ago, the 6 million-barrel limitation was a 2 million-barrel limitation, but was increased to keep the Boston Beer Company within the definition of "craft beer."

Once you take the big beer producers out of the picture, craft beer is still growing, although not as much as it has in the past few years. So don't freak out too much about the hand wrenching and tongue clucking going on about craft beer's decline - it's still on fleek.

Craft beer - like this guy - is still on fleek.

Craft beer - like this guy - is still on fleek.

Read the story saying craft beer is on the decline here and the story saying it's not on the decline if you take out the biggest craft brewers out of the equation here (this article mentions something called "hard water," which I think is just vodka.)

Also read this NPR story wherein a brewer advises not to go into craft beer just to make money.