Craft Brewers Say Geography May Be The Biggest Obstacle To Growth

By Kimberly Pierceall and Robyn Sidersky
The Virginian-Pilot

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Craft Brewers grapple with how to creatively attract customers in a competitive industry.

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.

It can be pretty easy to spot the craft beer drinkers in the crowd, and that may be a problem for regional breweries looking to grow.

“They are caricatured as young, Caucasian men with white-collar jobs, likely sport beards and perhaps have a few discreet tattoos, and are outdoorsy on the weekends,” a report from Old Dominion University economists says. And the data appear to confirm at least some of that stereotype.

In 2015, 86 percent of craft beer drinkers were white, according to a Harris Poll cited by the Brewers Association.

By 2018, the percentage had dropped, but only by a half a point. Most are millennials and those earning more than $75,000 a year.

Those figures aren’t inherently bad news for any industry. As far as age goes, as the report points out, younger millennials will reach drinking age and the older ones will, ideally, begin earning more money.

But there’s a whole world of people out there who might be craft beer customers too – people who, if recruited, could keep the taps open for years to come.

The number of breweries nationwide rose from 2,898 in 2013 to 6,266 last year. In Hampton Roads, the number went from about a dozen to 36. Without adding new customers, could craft beer growth hit a wall?

“A lot of the advice I give to brewers is to think of people as beer drinkers, first,” said Bart Watson, an economist with the Brewers Association. The locales that do it well? “It’s because there’s a very pervasive culture of drinking beer, so everyone drinks beer.”

Nationally, nonwhite consumers accounted for 14.5 percent of craft beer drinkers, less than 1 percentage point higher than three years earlier. African-Americans accounted for just 10 percent of those drinking craft beer weekly.

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