Every year, the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit association representing small and independent American craft brewers, commissions consumer research into the changing preferences of beer drinkers, information that is relevant to the UK hospitality industry because trends that start in America often make their way overseas.

Choosing a Beer

When asked about factors influencing beer preference, flavour remains a key driver of purchase intent with 95% emphasising its significance.  Crisp as a flavour profile is the most popular, universally liked flavour, followed by juicy/hazy, fruit-forward variants, and hoppy/bitter and spicy. While juicy/hazy and fruit-forward (sweet) beers displayed the most growth, malty/dark and tart flavours remained static or experienced a slight decline.

Beyond flavour, freshness and aroma emerged as key considerations, with alcohol content levels proving increasingly important as well.  Approximately 60% of respondents said high ABV was important while approximately 30% expressed a preference for low ABV options. What’s noteworthy is the interest in ABVs from the two youngest age categories of 21–34 year-old and 35–44 year-old.  Both age groups clearly care more about alcohol content then their older counterparts.

Brand Importance

We asked people whether their purchasing decisions were based on style or brand first.  Eight years ago the response was 80:20 in favour of style and now it’s 60:40 style then brand, reflecting the number of different options now available and how important branding has become.

Styles and Trends

In 2022, the IPA category accounted for 43% of all craft beer sales in the US, up from 30% in 2017. The category has grown because it has changed and taken on new dimensions, offering options that depart from its original characterisation as bitter beer. Newer substyles exhibit more juicy/hazy, less bitter profiles that invite new customers in and help grow the category.

Beyond the IPA craze, other categories performing strongly include fruit beers in a variety of iterations such as fruited classic or sour beers, and a collection of lighter, lower ABV styles like lagers, blonde ale, golden and wheat ale.

American craft beer is available through national wholesalers or on line  Athletic Brewing, or the Cascade Club  Many of the American craft beers available in the UK are recent medal winners from World Beer Cup 2023, the biggest and most competitive beer contest in the world.

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