The Top 3 Craft Beer Trends Every Restaurateur Needs to Know for 2018

Chris Rumpf

Founder and CEO, 15+ Years of Restaurant Technology Innovation

The Top 3 Craft Beer Trends Every Restaurateur Needs to Know for 2018

Craft beer is still on the rise in the United States and it shows no signs of slowing down. According to the Brewers Association, U.S. beer volume sales were down 1% in 2017, whereas craft brewer sales continued to grow at a rate of 5% by volume, reaching 12.7% of the U.S. beer market by volume. If that weren’t enough, retail sales of craft beer increased by a whopping 8%, up to $26 billion in 2017, and craft beer now accounts for more than 23% of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market.

With so many options available, it can be difficult to figure out what will be the best fit for your restaurant. Here are 3 of the top 2018 craft beer trends you need to know about:

1. Juicy or Hazy Pale Ales & IPAs

The IPA has long been king of the craft beer world in the United States so it’s no surprise that a variation on that style has become very popular. The hazy quality of these beers was once considered a flaw but this style is now growing in popularity and starting to be recognized. The Brewers Association has released inaugural guidelines for three styles of Juicy Hazy ales.

This style isn’t new but its popularity has been growing. Over the past 10 years, brewers began producing IPAs focused more on hops’ juicy characteristics rather than the more bitter flavors associated with West Coast-style IPAs. The resulting beers are bright and refreshing with a somewhat fruity flavor. This style is an excellent addition to your bar because it provides another option for customers who don’t enjoy the bitterness of a traditional New England IPA.

2. Local Focus

Craft brewing has its roots in local microbreweries, but some of the big names like Goose Island, Ballast Point, and Lagunitas have been bought out by big beer companies and are no longer considered to be craft. Due to countless mergers, there are only 2 giant domestic beer companies left in the United States: Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors. Both of these companies see the demand for craft beer and have spent billions to acquire craft breweries.

If craft beer is no longer craft once it is purchased by a gigantic corporation, the future growth of the industry relies on having a local focus. For the first time ever, there are more than 6000 breweries in the US, all of which provide an amazing range of beers that your restaurant can offer to set itself apart. Having a local focus allows you to build relationships with brewers in your community so you can support one another.

Stocking your community’s favorite local beers has proven to be a way to improve sales. In restaurants, craft beer sales have continued to grow while the overall beer category has lost share. According to Guest Metrics and The Brewers Association, in 2013 craft beer increased by .54 percentage points over the previous year while the overall beer category fell by .93 percentage points.

Thanks to efforts made by the Brewers Association, many restaurants are choosing to stop selling beers that don’t fit the BA’s definition of craft. As defined by the Brewers Association a craft brewery is a small, traditional brewery that is at least 75 percent independently owned. Most of these breweries can be found in your backyard as bigger breweries like Lagunitas and Founders have sold off too much of their company to still be considered “craft”.

3. Craft Lagers

Most beer drinkers in the world drink lagers but until recently, the craft beer world has largely ignored this style. Many brewers see craft lagers as a way to reach the larger beer-drinking market and an opportunity to create better tasting lagers and Pilsners.

According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, several breweries with strong lager and pilsner brands posted gains in 2017, including Bell’s (up 19%), Stone (up 14.5%), Firestone Walker (up 16%), New Glarus (up 16%) and Victory parent company Artisanal Brewing Ventures (up 16%). It is clear that people are looking for lagers that are different and this is an opportunity to sell more of the world’s most popular beer style.

In most cities, you’ll find a strong relationship between home brewers, craft brewers, and local restaurants. Homebrew competitions which take place during country fairs, etc include entries submitted by both home brewers and craft brewery owners and brewers. Often you’ll find the judges are brewery owners as well. Further, independent restaurants are now incorporating local brews into their menus, both on tap and in the kitchen.

One of our clients shared with us that they see an influx in pilsner and lager sales in the summer months as they tend to be a more crisp, light, and refreshing brew. While lagers can be heavier, depending on the way it is made, the beer has a refreshing back end because of the yeast strain and a crispness that is produced during the fermentation. Lagers are fermented at a much lower temperature than ales.

Large “craft breweries” have large distribution territories so this implies that the beer is also available in the south where the climate is warmer annually driving these styles to perform even better.

All three of these craft beer trends can help you increase profits at your restaurant this year. Which ones will you tap into for your bar?