Millennials & Craft Beer: A Match Made in Libation Heaven

Millennials have been given a bad rap over the years. They’re egocentric, entitled, complainers, lazy, uninformed, etc. Even the cohort in question is willing to acknowledge their negative stereotypes. 59% describe their generation as self-absorbed, 49% say they are wasteful, and 43% admit they’re greedy, according to a recent Pew Research Survey. I could go on, but I’ll stop there because, as a millennial, I’m starting to hurt my feelings.

On a more positive note, we’re also known for our passionate mindset, our innovative spirit, and our deep desire to form meaningful connections. We’re educated, too. Granted, we’ll be in debt for the rest of time, but at least we’re educated, right? Right?

But one the most notable and prestigious characteristics embodied by my generation, besides our fondness for memes and Harry Potter, of course, is that we genuinely appreciate the beauty of a high-quality glass of craft beer. That’s right. I went there. Millennials have outstanding taste in adult beverages. It’s just a fact.

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According to Nielsen, the craft beer industry has seen a 14% revenue increase in the last year, while beer as an overall industry increased 4.6%. And when we consider who might be responsible for such success, millennials are at the top of the list. Millennials are more casual drinkers compared to other generations and 43% prefer craft beer to domestic beer. They value flavor, character, and independence, and they’ve discovered that the craft beer industry satisfies all three.

So what is craft beer, and why is it so appealing to the younger folk? By definition, an American brewer is “small, independent, and traditional,” according to the Brewer’s Association. They produce less than 6 million barrels per year, and less than 25% of craft breweries are owned and operated by a company that is not considered a craft brewer. But what is it about craft beer that’s so attractive to millennials?

Strong Sense of Identity

Millennials like to go against the grain and do the opposite of what their parents did. They’re passionate about branding their own identity, and supporting brands that convey a more authentic message is pretty much their life mantra. Craft beer allows them to fulfill said mantra. Instead of naming a big beer brand as their drink of choice, they love finding smaller craft breweries that allow for more exploration of flavors that speak to their unique individuality. And with more than 4,000 breweries in the U.S., there’s likely a beer out there for every identity-seeking millennial – like a soul mate but it’s beer. A beer-mate?

King of Authenticity

Because craft breweries are smaller than their big brand competitors, it’s easier for millennials to connect on a more personal level. According to an Eventbrite survey, more than 50% of millennials attend a beer festival to meet the faces behind the brewery. They want to form authentic relationships with the owners, not just buy their product and walk away. Even more, the locality of craft breweries feels extremely authentic for millennials. 86% of craft beer drinkers say they value local beers – they’d rather try beers that come from their native region rather than sip on something everyone and their mother have tried.

Experience Trumps Product

It’s a fundamental truth that millennials value brand experience way more than they value products. They prefer to spend their money on an event rather than materialistic things. Which, in my humble (and unbiased) opinion, is a very noble quality. I believe that’s the main reason craft beer has gained such thriving popularity – craft beer is an experience in and of itself. Craft breweries aren’t about shoving products down throats so they can make all the money; they’re about offering a unique experience for consumers to enjoy with friends and family so that, when the weekend rolls around, we know what beverage brand we want to spend our time with. Exploring new breweries and trying different brews is an adventure, and if I could summarize my generational comrades, it’s that we’re adventurous beer drinkers who crave experience.

 

The bottom line – brands from all markets and industries can learn a lot about millennials’ admiration for the craft beer industry. By dissecting the common themes of the industry, brands are able to implement similar themes (local, experiential, authentic, etc.) in their own strategies, thus capitalizing on millennial values and increasing awareness.

Cheers! And happy Friday!

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