The Skinny on Michelob Ultra: Why a Light Beer Isn’t a Featherweight in Sales

michelob ultra sign

There’s an interesting dichotomy going on in the world of beer right now.

Drinkers across the country are craving double IPAs, imperial stouts and high-octane brews that could make them keel over. Yet on the other side, there is a segment of people who aren’t just interested in the growing prowess of beer, but their waistlines as well.

Last year, I wrote about the wild growth of Michelob Ultra in the face of other macro domestic brands. While craft beer is booming, it seems this beer-branded sports drink is doing pretty well, too. Consider the sales percentage growth over the past four years, as reported by sports business analyst Darren Rovell:

2011 – 10.3%
2012 – 10.3%
2013 – 8%
2014 – 12%

Craft beer sales may be booming, but the rising interest of Michelob is only compounding year-to-year. According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, barrel production of Michelob Ultra grew 30.9 percent from 2009 to 2014, one of only three top-10 macro beers to actually grow during that time.

Most of all, there are several indicators to suggest this pattern won’t be losing steam any time soon.

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Reporter’s Notebook: Ohio and Craft Beer

beer notebook_web2

This week I shared a post focusing on the interesting case of Ohio, which has become a surprising hot spot for craft beer. Consumer demand is way up in the Buckeye State, where supermarkets, bottle shops and distributors are seeing strong enough growth to liken some Ohio cities to beer destinations like Portland and San Diego.

In my reporting for the piece, I reached out to many people in Ohio to gain better context for some of the trends I was paying attention to from afar in North Carolina. While I was able to fit many details into Wednesday’s post, I wanted to share additional content that didn’t make the piece, but is interesting and important all the same.

So let’s flip back the cover and see what scribbled notes are worth another look.

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Buckeye Beer: Is It Time to Pay More Attention to Ohio?


Lately, it seems we’re reminded almost daily about craft brewery growth. Whether it’s anecdotal evidence from our local paper or the hardened fact that we’re on pace for 1.5 breweries to open every day.

But sometimes the success of this sector of the beer industry can surprise you, especially in “emerging markets” for those of us looking in from the outside. All around us, local interest for beer is frothing over and the supply is meeting new demand.

Which led me over the last six months to wonder: what’s up with Ohio?

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My Mount Rushmore of Beer


Set high above our bars and breweries, sculpted in the granite of personal history, lies a metaphorical place that stands the test of time as a “shrine of beerocracy.”

It’s Mount Rushmore … only my repurposed symbol of fermented freedom. No longer do Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln emblazon its side, but rather my own heroes, representing the people who have shaped my past and influenced my future with beer.

Today, along with a collection of fellow Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers, I’m sharing who should be remembered for the impact they’ve made on my beer drinking world. So let me introduce you to the dignitaries of my Mount Rushmore … of beer.

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Trend Watching: Are Craft Lagers Destined To Be ‘A Thing’?

trend arrow beer

Just like any other industry, beer and its community are influenced.

Whether it’s a flash in a pan fad or an honest to goodness trend, the ideas that impact people who create and consume beer can have lasting impacts. Then there are behemoths like the IPA – now making up roughly a quarter of craft beer sales – a style which just a few years ago seemed like a trend until it starting setting its own sub-trends with double IPAs and session IPAs and whatever India’d style you can dream of.

We’re always looking for that Next Big Thing that’s going to start something new, gazing into metaphorical crystal balls with hope of understanding what will next be poured into our glass. For Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, that answer is lager:

Going booth to booth at the recent craft brewer pavilion at the National Grocers Association show, nearly every brewer had a great pilsner. Some were brands that have been around for a while, but there were plenty of new additions. Those new entries are combining with longer-term brands to create new excitement around pilsners.

Even if January sales of pilsners were up 56 percent in 2015 compared to the same month in 2014, the big question to ask isn’t just whether “excitement” equates to groundswell of a trend, but also do American drinkers want this trend in the first place?

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A Winter Tale: February 2015 Beertography


February has almost gone by, which means it’s time for my monthly roundup of beertography.

As the grip of Old Man Winter took hold of North Carolina this month, it left me with something different for February’s collection: a theme.

So below you’ll find some of my recent photos celebrating several weeks in something akin to a winter wonderland. But, you know, with beer.

In addition to what you see here, you may also have come across photos on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find all beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

Let’s see what February had to offer…

Brueprint Midnight Brue – Night Comes Early


A strong stout only seems fitting for frigid weather, until…

Troegs Blizzard of Hops – The Accumulation

web-troegs-blizzard of hops-hop-ipa-beer-beertography-winter-photo-picture

Which satisfies until things get ugly…

Great Lakes Blackout Stout – Drinking in the Dark

web-great lakes-blackout stout-stout-beer-beertography-winter-photo-picture

The only thing left to do, as the cold creeps in and saps your warmth, is to pack it in and pack it on…

Wicked Weed Indulgence – Hibernation Libation

web-wicked weed-indulgence-sour beer-tart-asheville-beer-beertography-photo-pictureWhile we can blame a rodent for our never-ending winter, I wish you and yours warmth, merriment and something nice to sip by a fire…


Here’s hoping March is just as fruitful as the last few weeks. 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

6 Charts That Show We Love Being Boozehounds, or: An Analysis of ABV and Ranking Bias

booze hound

In recent weeks, I’ve been slowly pulling together research for a special project to compile nearly all the work I’ve performed in regard to ABV, style and beer rating bias into one compendium of sorts.

As I put the finishing touches on the effort, I’ve created several new charts to help tell the story of drinker preferences based on research from Rate Beer and Beer Advocate.

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Won’t You Beer My Valentine?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m celebrating it the best way I know how … with beer. If you’re looking to impress a beer lover in your life, I’m here (with Friend of the Program Oliver Gray) to make it easy.

Use these thematically-appropriate holiday cards to win the love of your fermented life.

heady topper-valentines day


tap card-valentines day


ab inbev-valentines day


Make sure to check out Oliver’s collection of cards, too.


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

In Which I Apply to be a Beer Writer at Thrillist

Mr. Thrill,

Even though your company has been around for more than 10 years, I just found out about, which I think is awesome. The listserv set up for my frat brothers from Alpha Tau Omega blew up with your recent post, “Groove Cruise Pics: 4 Days Of Half-Naked Women And Nonstop EDM.” I was equally impressed with your enterprise journalism focusing on the creation of Rome’s red light district.

But most of all, I really love your beer writing, which has clearly set the bar for public discussion and consumption. <—- pretty good pun

After I read the post Sour Beers Are For Hipsters, Geeks, And Overcompensating Oafs*, I felt a strong connection to your editorial philosophy. But it was this week’s Craft Beer Is Dead. Gose Killed It. that sealed the deal.

As someone who has written numerous beer reviews, I could definitely relate to a non-sweat liquid tasking just like the warm, spicy sweat one could lick off the underarm of a 43-year old, bearded body builder named Hans. Like your writers, I too, believe the glorious revolution of beer is over, and I’ve got a lot to say about it. People should definitely listen.

Which is why I’m ideal to be your next beer writer. I’m young (check), write a beer blog (check) and really love attention from purposefully saying stupid things (check). Like this one time I jumped up on a table in the student union and yelled something inappropriate at the girls walking by. Your site is kind of like that and I feel like I embody it.

As a Millennial, I also feel like I’m ready for big responsibility, so let’s do this thing, right?

You’ll find my resume attached. You can click to enlarge it, if necessary. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm regards,

thrillist-beer writer-beer blog-gose-resume


Note: This post was inspired by another strong public reaction to a piece on the Thrillist website. People lost their shit. It’s all clickbait. Please never pay attention to them.

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

RateBeer Ranked: A Historical Analysis of “Best Beers”

header ratebeer historical

After looking back at RateBeer user preferences for 2014 as all as a comparison of the last two years, it’s time to take a step even further back.

RateBeer’s “best beer” list goes back as far as 2002 – missing in 2004 and 2005 for some reason – so what I’ve done is taken the past 10 years of data from the annual rankings and selected the best of the “best” to try and gain some kind of insight.

What we have now is historical proof of our drunkenness. Or, at least, signs that demonstrate if we’re sipping on world-class beer, it better bring the heat.

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