The On-Premise/Off-Premise Split

Back in the glorious 1980s amid what was surely the most hideous moment of fashion*, there was a certain hairstyle that was "all business up front, but a party in the back." Luminaries like Rod Stewart and Patrick Swayze teased their hair into delicious ridiculousness, but none was more tasty than Andre Agassi's.

Photo: Manny Millan/SI

Photo: Manny Millan/SI

How does this relate to beer? Aren't I just padding an otherwise slender post? Bravo, careful reader, you've sussed that one out. I was reminded of the mullet when I saw an offhand comment to some recent Nielsen numbers. While craft beer continues to limp along, there's one area of real triumph; "craft" (however Nielsen defines it) now constitutes about 30% of the on-premise (draft) market. That's about double the volume share of craft overall.

I've long been intrigued by a similar but even more exaggerated phenomenon in Oregon. While somewhere between a quarter and a third of the Oregon market is craft, over two-thirds of the draft market is. I always chalked this up to Oregon being Oregon, but it looks like a similar pattern exists nationwide.

When people go out to a bar or restaurant, they're twice as likely to drink craft beer than when they're buying bottles or cans. This makes some intuitive sense, I suppose. The price differential for a pint is smaller, and the flavor impact is greater. Also, much of the packaged beer consumed in the US is done in volume, often at social events (back yards, recreation, in front of televised sports), for which cases and half-cases are well-suited. So: the classy beer in public, mass market beer at home. See, like a mullet.

I plan to spend some quality time in pubs this weekend fresh-hop hunting, doing my best to goose those on-premise numbers. But I may also retire to the parlor with a bottle of something classy to watch the final two eps of season seven on Game of Thrones. We're fully into the dragon age this season and it rocks. (This year's Ommegang is called "Bend the Knee," a phrase--no spoiler alert here--in high use this season. Not that there's a lot of knee-bending; war is afoot. Maybe I'll track down one of those.)

Happy Friday--
*Some will argue for the 1970s, and I admit it's a close call. No decade with the mullet, however, can ever finish second.

Jeff Alworthdraft beer, stats