No one disputes that we’re living in a golden age of craft beer, at least by sheer volume and selection alone. In 2016 there were 5,234 distinct craft breweries in the U.S.—up 16.2 percent from 2015, per the Brewers Association (BA). (For contrast, there were fewer than 2,000 breweries in America as recently as six years ago.) But while we have more beer choices than ever before, craft volume growth slowed to six percent last year, compared to 13 percent in 2015 and 18 percent in 2014, according to the BA.
It’s probably too early to say that the craft beer bubble has begun to burst, but a new report from Drizly, the county’s largest alcohol delivery app, suggests at least one important demographic may be getting tired of microbrews.
Drizly recently launched what it calls its “Data Distillery,” a hub that gathers data from millions of orders in the 70 American cities in which Drizly operates. In its first major finding, the company reported that Millennials are now buying more macro brews from major brands than craft beers. (As a reminder, the Brewers Association categorizes craft breweries as those that annually produce 6 million barrels or fewer per year, and are less than 25-percent owned or controlled by a mass brewer.)
A deeper dive into the data reveals that Drizly users between the ages of 21 and 29 bought 38 percent of their beer from craft brewers on the site in the first quarter of 2017, even though more than 90 percent of the beers available come from craft brands. Compare that to the first quarter of 2015, when craft accounted for 44 percent of Drizly sales from the same age group. Meanwhile, 30- to 39-year-olds saw a similar drop over two years, though it wasn’t as pronounced (49 to 44 percent).
This means young people are drinking beers from macro brands that are in many cases cheaper, and arguably worse. Among the macro beers that have seen a significant spike over the last 2.5 years, Michelob Ultra’s Drizly sales have grown sixfold since the beginning of 2015, while Corona’s have more than doubled. The craft-certified Brooklyn Brewery’s sales, meanwhile, have dropped by 25 percent in the same amount of time.
Here’s where we stress not to read too much into the stats, namely because these are lazy Millennials we’re talking about, who prefer to buy their booze online instead of at a physical distributor or bar. And consider just who makes up that 21- to 29-year-old demographic: college students and postgrads, who could either be stocking up for frat parties or trying to save money to make rent, and so gravitate toward cheaper, albeit shittier brews. After all, a craft beer tends to cost around 40 cents more than macro for a six-pack, per Drizly.
So don’t write a eulogy for your beloved neighborhood nanobrewery just yet. That being said, since Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers in size last year and will soon shape the future of America (if they haven’t begun to already) don’t be surprised if we’re all pounding Busch Light tall boys in solidarity before long.