When asked to choose a single word to describe brands like Budweiser, Coors, or Miller, most people in a recent study said “American.” WAIT, WHAT?!?
So, what does it mean to be “American” these days? Of course, that’s a loaded question. Let’s focus on “Made in America” for a moment (and not the music festival Budweiser stuck its name on). Do we define made in America as local? Unique? According to our research, the most commonly expressed desires of craft beer drinkers, including casual fans and regular imbibers, were for the brands they bought and consumed to be “unique,” “local,” or “part of a community.” And in the words of Dan Kenary, founder of Harpoon Brewing, “authentic independence is so important.” Viewed through this lens, the majority of craft breweries can be viewed as distinctly American.
As avid beer drinkers, we were pretty damn surprised by how often we heard the big brands identified as “American” in the proprietary study we concluded last month. But when we asked the same group to free associate around craft beer, one of the most common responses was that “It sparks a conversation about creation, flavor, and originality.” No offense to those who like their primary beer tasting note to be cold, but we’re calling bullshit that anyone has ever used the words creation, flavor, or originality to describe Bud, Coors, or Miller.
Craft brewers live at the edge of the market and consumer preference. They are the drivers of innovation, the underdogs who make it on their own moxie and bootstrap their way to success on their own terms. Nothing feels more intrinsically American, and consumers are responding with their wallets. According to Beverage Dynamics and LA Weekly, the craft beer industry has now surpassed 10% of the overall US beer market for the first time and is still climbing.
Clearly, consumers are interested in the uniqueness and the spirit of entrepreneurship that is so interwoven in the DNA of both being “American” and craft brewing. As one of our study respondents said it best, “craft beer is beer that is brewed in smaller batches with types and flavors the major brewers won't invest in.” Does that sound risky, adventurous, or ambitious? So was the idea of America at the time of its founding.
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