Exploring Drinker Demographics: Investigating Today’s Craft Consumer

magnifying-glass-personSelf-expression is unavoidable. No matter how small the detail, each conscious choice we make – for better or worse – lays out clues for others to understand who we are.

The thing is, these days, you don’t need to be a super sleuth to pick up pieces of a person’s personality. As much as we may try to toss out red herrings and throw others off, the investigation into someone’s personality is easier than ever, from their clothes to their technological accessories to their beer.

But especially the beer.

“Craft beer allows for people to express their individual sense of style while also allowing for experimentation, and that’s a very exciting thing for a lot of people,” Mintel food & drink analyst Beth Bloom told just-drinks.com this summer. “Craft beer is not only a beverage choice, it appears to be a lifestyle choice.”

While that sentiment might not be shared by every single beer drinker, it is widely accepted by Millennials, the largest demographic of craft beer consumers. Plus, at this stage of the craft beer game, we probably all know a person or two who are comfortable making snap judgements on others based on what’s in their pint glass, right, David Chang?

There have been plenty of takes highlighting latest demographics of the craft beer drinker, but looking beyond a few data points, what does this information tell us about the people flocking to craft?

Most important: The more we talk about beer as a culture and craft beer as a “lifestyle choice,” the more we need to consider why people make this decision, beyond the simple reason “craft beer tastes better.”

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Exploring Drinker Demographics: When Biology and Social Expectations Collide


Who cares about “craft beer”? And when?

The first time I found out I loved craft beer, I didn’t know it was craft beer.

It was just “beer.” And it was good.

I had moved beyond the BMC days of high school and found out there was more beer readily available than the Hoegaarden or Guinness I became fond of in my late teens. While I loved Sam Adams and their variety packs, everything changed my senior year of college.

I found myself with a minimal disposable income, a growing interest in what I drank and a bottle shop a few miles away. All of a sudden, new beers and flavors were within easy reach.

My roommates and I – all 21 or 22 – made trips together. We once bought a case of Saranac Caramel Porter to share among the three of us, which was the best beer I’d ever had. I drank it cold or warm. From the bottle or out of a somewhat clean shaker pint glass. I didn’t care.

It was sweet and candy-like, but not annoyingly so. A mix of malt, caramelized sugar and natural flavors. I had no idea Saranac wasn’t actually the name of the brewery (it’s Matt Brewing Company) nor did I know what “craft” was or how the business fit into it.

It was just “beer.” And it was good.

Which makes me wonder about today’s young drinkers. My experience with Saranac was about eight years ago, an entire era in our modern craft beer boom. For those transitioning out of youthful habits and into new maturity based around the presence and idea of “craft,” how does that impact their decisions as consumers?

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Exploring Drinker Demographics: When (and for Whom) Does Price Point Matter Most?

beer-money-headerNo matter what kind of shenanigans our youth puts us through – cheeky and fun or cruel and tragic – the fact of the matter is we grow up.

We age. We learn. We mature.

This is a lesson that is perhaps most important when it comes to a love and appreciation for something like alcohol, which for many can teeter on the edge of gleeful passion and problematic obsession, but hopefully never tumble into addiction.

Our youthful memories of beer-soaked times with friends are quaint in adulthood, if only for their near uniformity. That time we managed to get our hands on a 12-pack of [CRAP BEER] and sneaked to the [DOCK/WOODS/FRIEND'S BASEMENT] to polish it off amongst our little group. In the grand scheme of life, it seems harmless and leaves us with stories to bond over years later.

But what if someone gets stuck in this scenario? What if the folly of youth turns into irresponsible drinking? Does that impact his or her choice to transition into a more responsible drinker later on? What does this mean for interest and consumption of craft beer, too?

As it may turn out, these questions and answers may come from the same place.

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Why a ‘Beercation’ Isn’t Just About Beer

mountain trees-webStanding on the side of a mountain at 4,400 feet, the smell of pine was unmistakable.

What began as a slow ascent along dirt paths transitioned into loose, jagged rocks, constantly shifting underneath my feet. The white stone, broken and smoothed by years of Pacific Northwest weather, heeded a constant eye, but my attention was drawn upward to trees all around me, standing about 100 feet tall.

Was it the setting or the simply hop-like smell?

Five times I’ve traveled to Seattle, and every visit helps me feel more connected to the space, from the touristy Pike Place Market (for better or worse) to the mountains jutting out of the earth overlooking the Puget Sound and elsewhere. Like many cities I’ve come to know, what started as a place to find great beer has moved beyond its singular purpose. It’s become a destination to seek experiences and meet people.

It’s an important transition that we should feel lucky to have, even if it’s necessary to actively remind yourself the need to step away from a glass of beer and turn attention to what’s around you … like the shimmering water of the Snow Lake basin.

snow lake basin-seattle-webOr a happy dog.

kopi in water-web

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The Pleasant Distraction

There are always other things to do.

We have jobs and friends and responsibilities of life. But even then, there is always something else pulling us toward the multitude of interests and passions we hold close. How we divide our time, through internal formulas working to extrapolate wants and needs, equates to each of our unique personalities.

If we pursue our goals both professional and personal, then the sum of our efforts shape who we are.

Most days, I seek to balance all these fractions of my life with the help of this blog, which has become part of my daily ritual. I may not be able to write every day, but through research, and more important, conversations, I’m able to further ferment my passion for beer, its industry and its culture.

That is to say, you’re as much to thank for pushing me as my internal drive. It’s why as I celebrated an award for my work this weekend, I have nothing but appreciation for the people I’ve met along the way and the things (I hope) we learn together.

On Friday, the North American Guild of Beer Writers announced I had finished second in the category of “Best Beer Blog” at its annual awards ceremony. I’m thrilled to share this recognition with Oliver Gray, finishing first for Literature and Libation, and Jessica Miller, placing third for Hey Brewtiful.

But most of all, I’m excited to share this award with you. Whether you’re an everyday reader sorting through the archives, a commenter who has shared in conversation or simply stopping by for the first time, I’ve been lucky to hone my voice and learn new things because of interactions with people like you.

There will always be something else trying to gain my attention – often deservedly so – but I love using this space as a way to grow with you through a greater appreciation for all the aspects of beer.

So as I revel in an awfully exciting moment for me, I want you to know, Dear Reader, that I’m forever appreciative of how you influence me. I strive to think creatively and provide my love of beer in a unique way, and it means so much that I get to share that with you.

There are lots of shiny objects floating around all of us, reflecting constant reminders of where we should focus our attention. Thanks for letting me distract you.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Hello Fall: September 2014 Beertograpy


September has now gone by, which means it’s time for my regular roundup of beertography from the last few weeks.

Below you’ll find some of my recent shots, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find all of my beertography shots on Instagram or in my running archive.

All my shots are taken with my iPhone 5 unless otherwise noted. The space where I shoot my photos – around the house – offers somewhat limited opportunities for pretty backdrops, which is why I try to get inventive with my photo ideas.

Let’s see what September had to offer…

RJ Rockers – Awkward Family Photos

rj rockers-son of a peach-peachy king-family-awkward family photos-beer-beertography

Holy City Follicle Brown – The Essential Tools

holy city-chucktown follicle brown-brown ale-beer-beertography

Troegs Perpetual IPA – On and On

troegs-perpetual ipa-ipa-india pale ale-beer-beertography

Southern Tier Warlock – Casting a Spell

southern tier-warlock-pumpkin stout-stout

Foothills September IPA – Fourth and Long

foothills-katie kickoff-september ipa-ipa-india pale ale-beer-beertography

As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


Your Glassware Did What? A Sensory Experiment of Time and Temperature

mad scientistBeer may be my passion, but in recent months, I’ve come to learn that a beer can sometimes only be as good as the vessel in which you enjoy it.

A shaker pint glass does the trick in a pinch, but when it truly comes to experiencing a beer to the highest degree, it’s important to consider what you pull from your cupboard. While I’ve shared my thoughts previously on the importance of glassware, I’ve was recently presented a serendipitous experience to explore how the method of drinking our beer impacts our senses.

And honestly, I think this latest experiment offers a rather curious take on the matter.

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Identity Crisis: The Rita-ization of Heineken

heineken blurWhile beer enthusiasts the world over this week may have been decrying the threat of an AB InBev takeover bid of its main rival, SABMiller, a secondary detail to this story seems just as important.

An AB InBev buy of SABMiller, the first and second-largest beer companies in the world, respectively, has been rumored for what feels like years, but it was SABMiller’s attempt to takeover Heineken (#3 in the world) that kicked off this latest round of “will they or won’t they” between AB InBev and SABMiller. As the Wall Street Journal reported, SABMiller wanted Heineken in an attempt to bolster their company’s size and become an even major player globally.

So as people may wonder what will happen between the two biggest Big Beer players of them all, I’m left thinking … why did Heineken spurn the advances of SABMiller?

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How Does Boston Beer Like Them Apples? Just Fine, Thank You.

apple-ciderWhen researching for my series on the “personality” of Boston Beer Company, there were many little facts or insights that I decided to leave out, mostly for the sake of post length or flow of the text.

There was one nugget I really wanted to include, but decided not to because it simply didn’t seem to fit perfectly in any of the posts.

In my piece about Boston Beer’s innovation practices, I briefly noted the massive growth of hard cider brand Angry Orchard:

Boston Beer launched Angry Orchard hard cider in spring 2012, which became the county’s most popular hard cider brand in 2013 with nearly 40 percent market share. By 2015, Angry Orchard is expected to take up 20 percent of Boston Beer’s total sales volume.

Why is this important? Because one of the savviest things Boston Beer has done for its Sam Adams beer brands is take a long-term approach to production costs.

You may have heard about the coming hop apocalypse and what may be a lack of lupulin for breweries. Lucky for Boston Beer, they have long-term contracts with maltsters for their barley and hop producers for the wide collection of hops they use in their matrix of beers.

Up until now, they never took that approach with their need for apples for Angry Orchard, but it seems like its wild popularity has forced their hand.

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The Six-Pack Project, Revisited

six-pack project logo 6Over a year ago, I started an effort called the Six-Pack Project. It’s purpose was simple:

…bring together writers from all over the country (and maybe world)  to highlight a six-pack of our home’s native brews that best represent what our beer culture has to offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?

I had lots of success early on, recruiting friends and beer lovers from afar to help in my quest of finding special “six-packs” to represent the culture of their home state. But in recent months, my luck has run out.

Part of it has been time spent with some in-depth reporting and part of it has simply been  failed attempts to bring people on-board. So, I’m starting a renewed effort to bring some attention to the project and I’d love your help.

I’m starting by revisiting my own contribution, focusing on North Carolina. I’ve updated selections from my original piece, mostly thanks to the burgeoning craft beer industry in the state. I’m also on the lookout for new contributors, so you’re welcome to see the archive to help fill in blanks from around the U.S. or the world. Contact me on Twitter or leave a comment below to discuss some more.

Need a refresher on the Six-Pack Project? Here are the rules:

  1. This isn’t simply a “best of” list. The goal is to pick a collection of six beers that represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  2. Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  3. Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  4. Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred. Specialty or one-off brews are not allowed.

With that said, let’s see what you need to check out next time you’re in North Carolina.

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