Can Craft Beer Save Beer?

After a long, stressful week at work, how do you plan to quench your hard-earned thirst this weekend?

If you answered ‘with a good cold beer’, you might be surprised to learn that you’re on a beverage bandwagon which is quickly losing its fizz.

Consumption of the national brew is at a 68-year low according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with the average drinker aged 15 and over consuming 4.01 litres of pure alcohol in beer form during 2013/14, down from 4.04 litres the year before.

Clearly, increasingly health conscious, calorie counting and ab-sculpting Australians are thinking twice before ordering that seventh pint at the pub on a Friday night.

But before you start to question whether we’ve lost a key component of our national identity, there’s something else to consider: more and more drinkers are opting for quality over quantity at the taps.

craft beer

This man doesn’t opt for quality over quantity. This man opts for quality AND quantity.
Image: nestor ferraro, Flickr.

Walk into almost any pub these days, and alongside the standard Victoria Bitter, Carlton, Tooheys and XXXX options you’re bound to find a more adventurous brew on offer.

And while prices for craft beers are usually significantly higher than traditional brews, drinkers are happy to pay.

According to IBISWorld, craft beer production has grown by 10 per cent annually in the five years to 2014/15, and it’s the craft sector’s frothy performance which is propping up growth in the industry as a whole.

Major brewers have seen the writing on the wall and invested heavily in craft beer.

Lion Pty Ltd – a subsidiary of the Kirin Brewery Company – notably acquired WA’s craft brewer Little Creatures in 2012, while Carlton United Beverages (CUB, a subsidiary of SABMiller) own the Matilda Bay Brewing Company, which produces craft beers such as Fat Yak and Beez Neez.

Of course, these beers aren’t going to take the crown for Australia’s most popular brew any time soon (that title goes to Lion’s XXXX Gold, which overtook CUB’s VB in 2012), but they are a rare bright spot for an industry struggling to counteract shifting consumer preferences.

And even though some are beginning to question whether the now-saturated craft beer market has already ‘peaked’, there’s no doubt that the beer landscape is unrecognisable from the days (not so long ago) when a pub only needed to stock five products to keep the punters happy.

So…How about that drink?