Millennials and Beer - The Sky is Not Falling

The Washington Post's Wonkblog has a piece that is creating a bit of discussion amongst beery types: millennials don't like the beer so much.  (It's a post based on old numbers from a Gallup survey--apparently those ignorant of old poll numbers are doomed to repeat them.)  Actually, they do--beer is still millennials' preferred alcoholic drink--they just prefer it less than young people have in decades past.  And, actually, that tracks closely with general trends, too--beer consumption generally has been falling for decades.  We have known for at least five years that fragmentation is the way of the 21st century, as mass markets get ever tinier.

What we really care about is whether millennials are moving away from the craft beer segment.  Gallup's numbers didn't say anything about that, so of course Wonkblog can only offer a bit of throat clearing:
Even the beer world's coveted corner, craft beers, which has been gaining market share for many years now, might be on the verge of hitting their peak. "While we're not there yet, we're definitely approaching bubble territory,"  Spiros Malandrakis, an industry analyst at Euromonitor, said this past summer.
In other words: move along, nothing to see here.  We have known for years that the drinks market is getting more crowded as it matures, and that cider, micro-distilled liquors, and craft beer are increasingly grabbing market share from mass market beer.  Millennials are the first generation to be raised post-mass market, in the fragmented world of the internet.  They divide their love on all matters, not just alcoholic beverages.  That does not mean so few of them like craft beer that they can't support the segment's growth as it doubles or trebles (which would still leave it a decided minority of overall beer sales).

I'm also tired of lazy commentary like Malandrakis'.  His full quote continues: "There can't be a massive craft brewer. That's just an oxymoron. The moment a craft brewer makes beer on a mass scale, it's no longer a craft brewer."  He is a Londoner, and the word "craft brewer" has a different meaning there--so possibly we can chalk this up to cultural misunderstanding.  But on the face of it, that's an absurd statement.  We already have several massive craft breweries, and they are growing impressively.  Aside from a gut feeling he may have, there's nothing in the trends or data to suggest craft brewing is at or near a bubble.  None.  I know people feel that way, but there's no data to support it.

Sales of jug wine constituted two-thirds of the market in 1990 and are marginal now.  If you looked at the sale of good wine in 1995, you might have called it a "bubble," too.  But some times, trends just shift.  Nothing says mass market lagers have to remain popular.

Beer is fine, and millennials drink plenty of it.  In the immortal words of Aaron Rodgers, "r-e-l-a-x."