Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beer Statistics and Other Damn Lies.

Buried in the Brewers Association's news release is the main reason that it is re-interpreting the word "small" from 2 million to 6 million barrels per year:

"Loss of The Boston Beer Company's production in craft brewing industry statistics would inaccurately reflect on the craft brewing industry's market share."

In a few words, the BA has decided that it needs the rapid growth of Samuel Adams to keep craft beer numbers looking pretty each year. National media love to cite those numbers when talking about craft beer, and the BA loves getting credit for them. In one word, it's marketing.

Boston Beer is currently in the neighborhood of 2 million and poised to keep growing. Since craft brewers are making about 10 million barrels a year, cutting the old brewer and patriot loose would mean taking a 20 percent hit. That's a big chunk of craft beer's 7 percent share of the beer market.

However, I suspect market share is not the real concern. Instead, it's market growth. The annual double-digit growth numbers are the sexiest part of the craft beer stats (a 12 percent sales increase in the first half of 2010, for example). Especially while all other beer sales are dropping. And especially during an economic downturn.

That ridiculous growth number is the one your average Bud drinker sees on Fox News and thinks, "What's all the fuss about? Maybe I should give one of them fancy six-packs another go."

The odds are about one in five that he'll reach for a Sam Adams. And those odds are getting higher all the time.


  1. Wouldn't it be nice if the "small" were broken down to small (2-6 bazillion), smaller (500,000 to 2 million) and smallest (under 500,000 barrels) so the stats could move from PR to... stats.

  2. Just to keep those numbers straight, Boston Beer's share continues to decrease.

    From '06-'09 the percentage was 23.9, 22.3, 21.4, 20.2.

    Way back in 1995 it was 25.1% (one beer in four) and together Sam Adams and Pete's - two contract brewers - had 34.3% of the market. Sierra Nevada was the largest brewer producing its own beer and had a 5.3% share (compared to 7.9% in 2009).

  3. Stan, thanks for the clarification. I wonder how that Boston Beer share will look in the next few beers, with the company poised to grow further.

    Alan: On the one hand, I'm not sure that would be nice at all. I'm not a big of fan of even one line taken to define craft brewing, let alone three or four.

    On the other hand, it would be more instructive to see how the smallest are growing versus the smaller and small...

  4. Another important element of Boston Beer's contribution to craft beer, and a great reason to keep them "in the fold," as it were, is that BBC is one of the few craft companies to advertise in the mainstream media, including the hospitality trade rags. And each one of those ads is to at a small degree an ad for craft beer as well as for the BBC.

  5. Is there a method or site that would give statistics of the total consumption of beer in various specific locations around the gllobe?

  6. Neil, the World Health Organization recently published its Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health. There is a global overview as well as country-by-country profiles.


    I suspect what you want is there.

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