Cheers June 2015

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 42 of 51 43 June 2015 • "There's going to be a point when we have to lump session beers into the lighter beer category," he adds. So why do makers of session beers not just call them light? The name "light IPA" seems more straightforward than "session IPA." But microbrewers likely want to avoid the association the word "light" has with the macro market. "It would be a disaster for a big-name craft beer brewer to say that they've come out with a light beer," Beaumont says. "You could never sell a Laguinitas Light. But call it a Laguinitas Session, and it's a whole new ballgame." Session beer straddles the markets between macro and micro, hoppy and smooth. Like other craft sub-categories, it can rise and fall throughout the year. "People lean more toward sessionable beer in spring and summer," says Lienhard. "In cooler weather, the category is not as popular." Nor are they popular among all craft afi cionados. "Session IPAs, to me, are the new light beer. I don't really like them," Carbone says. "They're too citrusy, and I like a little maltiness." GOOD SPORTS Despite its challenges, it certainly can't be said that light beer has run its course, says Beaumont. "Bud Light is still the number-one selling beer brand in the U.S., with Coors and the others up there, too." Light beer may not be in growth mode, "but it's not going anywhere," he says. Beyond drinkers who are set in their ways and highly brand-loyal, macro retains other market footholds. At Plank, for instance, customers will drink macro beers during major sporting events, says Lienhard. Howard of Yard House agrees. "I'm not ashamed to admit it, but when I go to baseball games, I still like to drink a macro light," he says. "And according to our sales numbers, we have a lot of guests who feel the same way." Macro Marketing Misfires The big brewers invest heavily in advertising and sponsorships within professional athletics. But many consumers took exception to Budweiser's ad "Brewed the Hard Way" that aired during the Super Bowl this past February. The spot poked fun at the extreme tastes of craft drinkers, while celebrating the simple fl avors of macro. "Macro has been trying that same approach since the '90s," says beer expert and author Stephen Beaumont. "Miller in the late '90s had an ad campaign that said, 'It's time for a good-old macro beer.' It was in response to all the microbrews that were coming out during that time. That campaign didn't work then, and it hasn't worked anytime since." Greg Howard, beverage manager of the Yard House restaurant chain, says he didn't mind the Budweiser commercial. But he was equally skeptical about its effectiveness. "I think they should be celebrating who they are, though I don't know if those ads are going to drive people back into macro." Rather, he thinks big beer brands should focus more on their history. "There's this movement now in spirits in which people don't want to drink what their dads drink, like vodka, but do want to drink what their grandfather drank, like bourbon and gin," Howard notes. "This has helped fuel the resurgence of old-school spirits. I think the same thing could happen with beer." That's why we're now seeing branding such as the old-school Miller Lite cans, Howard adds. "The brand identity makes it a classic. I like that idea—of going back to classic strategies."—KS Into the Light Popular light beers at Oakland, CA-based beer garden Plank include The Linden Street Common Lager.

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