The Top 7 Best Selling Beer Styles

beer-aisle

The Brewers Association recently held their annual “State of Craft Beer” press conference, and one of the little gems included in the crush of information was recent data on the best-selling styles of craft beer in America, courtesy of SymphonyIRI.

Here’s what’s hot right now, along with which styles are gaining and losing ground: 

2012-beer-style-sales

Seasonal beers are currently number one, and if I had to guess, I’d say this is due in part to beer geeks snapping up seasonal offerings, but also from these beers being displayed on end caps and on palates where normal folks are shopping for beer.

IPA’s are number two with a bullet, surging up 39% in volume growth and falling just three points behind Seasonsals in sales.  My guess is IPAs will top this list the next time you see it.  I’m glad they’ve finally won me over, because the damn things are breeding like bunnies.

The Variety pack looks like it’s gaining ground as well, and this makes sense.  As more people get into craft beer, a variety pack is a wonderful place to start.  Smart brewers understand this, and I bet more and more of them are offering mixed 12 packs.  The combination of increased demand and more selection might be fueling the 16% sales growth.

The last three numbers show the ambers and lagers and wheats slide down the board.  Their decline might signal that former macro drinkers are expanding their horizons and embracing the bigger flavors that the craft beer universe has to offer.  That’s a happy thought.

What do you think about this data?  Anything here excite you or make you a little anxious?

As always, let us know below!

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Author:Jim Galligan

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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23 Comments on “The Top 7 Best Selling Beer Styles”

  1. March 28, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    The data on sales of Seasonals is a bit hard to put your finger on partially because it isn’t style-specific (I mean, where’s the smoked spalt content blah, be-blah…?). Same with Variety sales as a “style”. They’re really marketing tags more than style tags.

    I’m a bit surprised to see that Wheat’s are sliding a bit. Could be a nod to the perceptions (with some truth) that Wheats are bit less Insanity Diet-friendly. We’re all supposed to be drinking more Michelob Ultra, aren’t we?

    You’ll know the beer geeks are truly swelling in ranks when Russian Impies make a run at the list.

    Cheers!

    • March 28, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Yeah, the Top 7 list at my house looks like this:

      IPA
      RIS
      Wee Heavy…
      Uhh…
      Yeah…
      Then…
      Ahhh…

  2. March 28, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    I think the decline in Amber Lagers is due to over-saturation, everybody and their mother have brewed the style as an entry level craft beer to entice the macro drinkers (Amber Ales could be lumped in as well). At least that’s my take on it. Since the late 80s, every brewery I’ve been in has had some kind of Amber on tap, and the lagers generally don’t hold up to the ales.

    I am both psyched and leery though about the IPAs. So many breweries are putting out what they call American IPAs, when they should really labeled as traditional or English style. But that’s a small thing, Viva le Hop!

    • March 28, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      I’m all for the rise of ales as well, and while I now enjoy IPAs, their popularity used to piss me off when I first got into craft beer. I felt they were taking up space that other non-hop-bombs (like barrel aged stouts) could be occupying. Instead, they were driving sales and supporting craft brewers.

      It’s funny how at every point in my life, I can look back and see what an idiot I was, but I think I’m so smart right now. :)

    • March 28, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      Agreed – way too many Ambers out there and all but a very few are worth pouring anywhere other than a drain (Stone Levitation being a rare Amber that look forward to from time to time).

  3. March 28, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    “Seasonal”? That’s kind of a broad, BS term frankly. A summer wheat beer and a winter warmer get lumped together that way. Lame. Also “variety”? There’s no such style as variety. So this list isn’t really “best selling STYLES” but rather “best selling packages”.

    • March 28, 2013 at 10:27 am #

      I think these are weird blend of styles and sales categories designed more for showing beer retailers how tastes are trending instead of catering to beer geeks like us, Chad. It’s still interesting data, and certainly provides some insights into what people are gravitating towards in the beer aisle.

  4. March 28, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Wow, no stouts, porters, or browns?! I guess if it’s slaes by volume you don’t necessarily drink these in bulk, but the list of most Popular beer styles would look quite a bit different.

    • March 28, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Well this list is based on sales data, so these ARE the most “popular” craft beer styles (minus the whole “seasonal” thing) if you’re counting wallet votes.

      Now what’s popular amongst beer geeks might be quite different than this list…

  5. March 28, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    My list changes from year to year.
    1. Saison, but that makes me feel frenchy…meant to say Farmhouse
    2. Barleywines
    3. IPA
    4. DIPA
    5. Sours
    6. RIS
    7. Belgian Quads

    • March 28, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      I’d like to say RIS’s top my list, but I bet I actually spend the most on IPAs, which is lame, because they’re so popular, and I’m such a special snowflake and a rugged individual… ;)

    • March 28, 2013 at 11:16 am #

      Mine changes from one beer shopping trip to the next.

      • March 28, 2013 at 11:24 am #

        Me too, but if I see Dragons Milk, I always pick it up…

        • March 28, 2013 at 11:56 am #

          Okay Jim, you’ve talked me into ot. I’m gonna ask my pusher (I mean my beer supplier) to order me some Dragon’s Milk. I wanna see what all the hue and cry is about.

        • March 28, 2013 at 11:59 am #

          My local place charges $17.99 a four pack, so brace yourself. the bigger store charge about $15, but it’s still quite dear.

        • March 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

          Its worth trying at least once.

          BTW: in This same vein, we had an early Easter get-together at my youngest daughter’s house today. My son-in-law picked up a 4-pack of G.I.’s Bourbon Co. Stout just for me as part of the celebration—wow! Its the first time I’ve had it. There’s only one bottle left and I’m feelin’ no pain. This is what a Bourbon barrel aged stout should taste like. (I’m hooked–God I hope AB-Inbev doesn’t f$#k w/ it.)

          Have I got a great son-in-law or what?

        • March 30, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

          Yes, he’s a keeper, Wayne.

          If you enjoyed the BCS, you’ll also adore the Dragons Milk.

          I see BCS as the canary in the coal mine. If its okay, than AB-InBev might not ruin the brand. If not…

  6. March 28, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I suspect that “seasonals are number one because they’re perceived (and advertised) as having limited availability. As the “seasons” get stretched out however (as we’ve discussed before w/ pumpkin beers), smart beer drinkers will probably back off them a bit.

    Nevertheless, a mixed 12pack of seasonals, such as Magic Hat’s spring roundup (which includes a tasty rye and a great little dandelion ale) will continue to catch the discerning beernatic’s eye.

    As for the wheat beers, its been my sad experience that American wheat beers just generally don’t hold a candle to the Hefeweizen I enjoyed so much (and so often) in Frankfurt. We’ve got a long way to go.

    Also, as long as we don’t get market saturation of IPAs, ala the old Big Beer pseudo lagers, to the exclusion of quality stouts, porters, bocks, lagers, Belgians, et al, it doesn’t matter which “category” is number one, we’ll each of us drink what we like.

    • March 28, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      I agree. It was once said that Porsche created the oafish Cayanne SUV to generate revenue that could push forward the development of their sports cars (not sure if this is true, but it was their original justification).

      That’s how I feel about all the IPAs out there. If they keep the lights on so brewers can make other weirder, more interesting fare, I’m all for it.

  7. March 28, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Ah, this is CRAFT beer… I was wondering where the light American lagers were… ;)

  8. Chris
    April 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Lager on the slide ain’t good. Best US craft beer I’ve had was Brooklyn Lager.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best Beers for IPA Day ,Vancouver Island, Canada - August 2, 2013

    […] Decades later, IPA is one of the most popular styles of craft beer in America, according to the most recent Symphony IRI Group Data. […]

  2. Best IPA-Style Beers ,Vancouver Island, Canada - August 4, 2013

    […] Decades later, IPA is one of the most popular styles of craft beer in America, according to the most recent Symphony IRI Group Data. […]

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