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POINT OF BREW --- Michael J. Lewis

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Bits of News from the Beer Market

I came across a rather intriguing map of the USA a few days ago. As the result of a survey the map’s authors were able to identify the favorite summer beer of drinkers in each state in the Union.

The shape of each state was then filled by the logo of its favorite beer. Very cool. I would think any beer enthusiast would want a full sized poster of such an intriguing image as a wall decoration in his man-cave.              

Well maybe not. The survey involved only 1000 men nation-wide, so on average 20 electors per state. This is not what you would call a very scientific survey. Also the survey was about selecting a summer beer for picnics and BBQs and all the things we do on hot summer days. All of this would tend to guide the result toward the products of the major brewers (foreign and domestic) who, in any case, sell about 85% by volume of all beer in this country.              

Budweiser (with 18% of the votes), Coors Light (13%) and Corona (9%) were the most popular beers by vote but that still made Bud the big winner in 20 states. In addition five states voted for Stella Artois (also made by AB-I), giving AB-I beers a wide following in half the states of the Union. As AB-I is the biggest brewer in the world I suppose this outcome is not entirely surprising. Corona was the beer selected by California.              

Two things were surprising: the poor showing of Millers Lite and Coors Light did not win in Colorado. Incidentally, the State of Idaho voted for Mike’s Hard Lemonade as the light and refreshing beer they would take to a picnic. That is the poster child for FMBs or flavored malt beverages that are currently so popular, a fact that showed up elsewhere as follows.              

The National Beer Wholesalers Association publishes an analysis of sale trends that is intended to predict the market. It’s called the Beer Purchaser’s Index. A score of 50 implies a steady unchanging market; numbers above 50 imply that the market is expanding and below it is shrinking. As the scale runs form 0 to 100 there is plenty of scope for really good news and really bad news. The news here for the brewing industry in general is not uniformly good.

The good news is that the trend for the Total Beer Index (all malt-based products combined) is upwards and, at 62, is better than 58 for last year at this time. However, craft beers, imported beers and especially flavored malt beverages such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade (79 on the scale) contribute the main positive strength for this index. Light beers of the major domestic breweries are hurting at 44, and their regular beers are far off at about 25.              

In other news of the market The South Eastern Conference has announced recently that it will change a 30-year policy of not permitting alcohol sales at SEC games. The new policy permits individual universities to decide whether or not to sell alcohol.

On closer examination it turns out that for 30 years this policy of the SEC has been typically avuncular. Apparently, alcohol sales have always been permitted in the more expensive areas and box seats of the stadia but not in the cheaper sections. On the scale of discrimination that is possible in places southern, this is a minor thing, I suppose, but illustrates the mind-set of those in charge.

I understand to some extent why this 30-year prohibition existed from stories about the legendary English soccer fans in the 1980s. They were known and feared throughout England and Europe as ferocious when drunk, whether losing or winning. They were known as Lager Louts. In most cases these lads got thoroughly boozed up and belligerent in the pubs before the Saturday game and were looking for a fight after they entered the no-alcohol and mostly standing, stadium. The punishment, meant to fit the crime, required them to report to their local police station for a chat at kick-off time.

In the real world, police data shows that those schools that allow sales of beer and wine throughout a stadium during a game have experience dramatic decreases in alcohol-related problems. This seems counter-intuitive. The reason may be that it renders the pregame tailgate party less about drinking and more about bonhomie.

In the last bit of news, The Beer Institute has published its economic review of the contribution of the brewing industry to the economy of the United States during 2018. Its overall economic impact was $328 billion plus $59 billion in taxes at all levels (which is nearly equal to half the price consumers pay). The industry generates 2.1 million jobs, including jobs in manufacture, wholesale and retail and down on the farm.

The industry reaches into most sectors of the American economy. So look at the map (from AskMen beer map), grab a beer and enjoy the game, and together maybe we can fix that ailing Beer Purchaser’s Index. 

Michael J Lewis MUG Picmonkey

Michael J. Lewis, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California, Davis, and the academic director and lead instructor of UC Davis Extension’s Professional Brewing Programs. Lewis has been honored with the Master Brewers Association of the Americas’ Award of Merit and the Brewers Association’s Recognition Award. He is an elected fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling. He is also a recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Teaching Award. 

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