The alcohol category as a whole continues to grow, but within each sector, certain categories have been stealing the show. Last month we profiled the slowing growth of vodka in comparison to the boom in American whiskey and Bourbon. While both demonstrated continued growth, Bourbon and American whiskies are trending more strongly. Similarly, the beer industry has many parallels. While overall beer sales are expected to contribute to some growth, it’s the craft beer sector that is the one to watch. According to the most recent data from the Brewers Association, beer grew overall by 0.5% in 2014 while craft beers showed a 17.6% increase in sales. Furthermore, export craft beer rose by 36%. However, despite the recent increase and trend toward craft beer by the American consumer, craft beer still only accounts for about 11% of overall U.S. beer sales.
Late last year, Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) announced its interest in the acquisition of its biggest competitor SABMiller (SBMRF), a deal that could potentially cost about $12 billion. While still only in the early stages, AB InBev is working diligently to convince regulators to allow the sale. Meanwhile AB InBev has been taking advantage of the craft beer boom by purchasing a number of smaller brands. CNN’s Money.com reports AB InBev acquired Arizona’s Four Peaks Brewing Company, the U.K.’s Camden Town Brewery and Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery in late December. These are to be added to five craft breweries including Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian and Golden Road Brewing, all acquired since 2011.
As the winter continues to roll on, a rich and hearty craft brew can be the perfect pairing to a cool post-work evening. Here are our top picks for what to look for next time you’re at the store.
Founder’s — Breakfast Stout
Aptly named, Founder’s calls it the coffee lover’s consummate beer. It is brewed with flaked oats and imported chocolates and two types of coffee beans. The nose is strongly fresh-roasted coffee beans and it pours with a frothy cinnamon colored head. A delicious beer to enjoy slowly.
Stone — Arrogant Bastard Ale
Made in Amsterdam, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard is bold. A big malty beer with plenty of caramel and notes of toffee, pine resin, fruity and tropical and very hoppy. It has a touch of sweetness but retains a heavy and big beer with a rich and strong malty flavor that ends bitter. It’s confidence comes from more than just its name.
Vanberg & Dewulf — Lambickx
Aged in oak and chestnut barrels for two years before being mixed with fresh cherries, this limbic ale offers sweet fruit flavor with notes of tartness and a very dry finish. Bottled in a 750ml size, it’s a wonderful beer for sharing with a friend.
Other Half — All Green Everything
A triple IPA, this beer is heavy and bittered. A huge, but dry, tipple IPA packed with Motueka, Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic. Tropical, citrusy and piney on the nose, it pours a bright golden color from its 16 oz. can. If a bold IPA is what you’re looking for, you’ve found the right one, as the bitterness is the star here.