Who Are the Millennial Beer Drinkers? Part 1: Do We Have a Problem?


Tip of the hat to fearless reader, Briana, who chimed in on my previous post regarding Millennials and a preference for craft/local beer. That post, which ran down a list of reasons I believe locally-produced beer is the beer of choice for young drinkers, inspired these questions from Briana:

…why are the young, broke, and cool more interested in spending $5 or more on a craft beer when they could be buying a cheaper beer and getting more of it?

…ultimately their wallets are taking a bigger hit than their conscious on corporate responsibility ever will. While false advertising, local support, and the story all matter there is still something missing.

Specifically, Briana points out her interest in the habits of younger Millennials, which as a whole is an age group that spans 18 to 33 year olds. She asks about 21 to 26 year olds, with curiosity if the “main goal/instant gratification is getting drunk on a budget.”

Thanks to Briana for raising the issue and as I often do, I was tempted to dig deeper. While there may not be absolute, direct correlations to tie drinking patterns together, I do believe there’s a series of preferences and behaviors that leads us to a conclusion.

Let’s dive in…

I suppose the first thing to consider is whether or not the Millennial age group has a problem or preference with binge drinking, which would highlight potential influence for beer purchases. Of course, if I’m binge drinking (for clarity, I don’t), I’d want to drink craft beer and there’s no doubt about that. However, we should infer with some expectation that binging for most people includes cheaper alternatives.


Recent binge drinking stats actually show that the hardest partiers, believe it or not, are most often at least 65 years old, binging five times a month. In this case, “binge drinking” is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men.

However, the study did find that 28 percent of 18 to 24-year olds binged, consuming an average of about nine drinks per episode.

As you’d expect, the drinking habits of Millennials gets skewed by all those rowdy college students. Here’s how we can assume that much:

  • 28.2 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds binge drink.
  • They drink 9.3 drinks per average session.
  • They average 4.2 binge sessions each month.
  • Most important, 90 percent of all beer, wine, and liquor consumed in the 18 to 24 age group goes down during binge sessions.

So while the percentage of bingers may be high, so are the binge sessions, which on average happen every week – perhaps on the weekend. The biggest red flag is the fact that 90 percent of beer, wine and liquor consumed by the age group is drunk during binge sessions, showing that they are simply drinking to get drunk.

Our profile is then an 18 to 24-year old drinking every week, but consuming roughly all their alcohol in weekly sessions. If they’re buying large quantities of alcohol to have nine drinks, it may be safe to assume more cost effective alternatives are picked because the amount being purchased is high. Sounds like a college student to me.

Now, this doesn’t mean 25 to 33-year old Millennials aren’t binge drinking, nor does it mean that binge drinking isn’t occurring with craft beer. A night out with friends can rack up empty bottles, cans or glasses quickly. For the sake of argument – and perhaps to get to Briana’s point – we may be able to assume that heavy drinking of non craft beer occurs within the younger half of this demographic whereas the older half work on a more refined taste than yellow fiz.

How might we get an idea of that? Well, there’s this:

… and that’s where I’ll leave things for now, before we dig deeper into the demographics and behaviors I really think illustrate how and why young people are impacting the craft beer marketplace – and maybe even in a responsible manner.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments and questions, so chime away below and let me know what you think … or be daring and make some predictions of your own!

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


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