From the newswires

News stories from around the beer world that have caught our editor’s eye and have relevance to what is happening in our own industry….

Historic Anchor Brewing to close

Less than a month after it was revealed that Anchor Brewing would be ceasing production of its historic Christmas Ale and pulling back distribution to its own state of California, Japanese brewer Sapporo has announced it will be closing the historic Anchor Brewery.

Industry news site Brewbound had previously reported concerns that Anchor employees were uncertain about their fate after Sapporo acquired Stone Brewing in June 2022, citing a “lack of transparency” in Sapporo’s plans with Stone and how it affects Anchor.”

As writer Dave Infante said on his excellent Substack (subscription required), Anchor deserved better.

“Craft breweries close all the time, especially in these days of flatlining segment growth and marketshare encroachment from spirits. But Anchor is not just any craft brewery,” he wrote.

“By most accounts, it’s America’s first craft brewery, credited with mainstreaming the entire concept of local, independent, artisanal beer production starting in 1965, when industrial scion Fritz Maytag saved the company from insolvency.”

In what reads as an obituary, Jeff Alworth gives an overview of what Anchor meant to the nascent craft brewing movement in the US on his Beervana blog. He finishes with the line:

“Craft beer has been in transition for a long time. Anchor’s final legacy will be ushering it out of its founding era. Whatever craft beer is, it’s a different thing now that Anchor is gone.”

In a world where sales and closures elicit a much more muted response than they once did as consumers and the industry become increasingly immune to such things, Canadian write Stephen Beaumont described the closure as a ‘gut punch‘.

The ‘death’ of the beer festival?

Under the provocative headline, The death of the beer festival is jolting the craft brewing industry, Axios reports that “once ubiquitous and popular, major festivals in Colorado and nationwide are vanishing from the calendar this year amid tightening economic conditions and fatigue among fans.”

The story reported that a number of major US beer festivals have been discontinued and that in 2022 The Great American Beer Festival, one of the largest, cut tickets by 20,000 and hosted 300 fewer breweries.

“Long in need of a reinvention from a sloshy reputation, many beer festivals took note and recalibrated to provide a more intimate experience for beer fans and make it more economically viable for brewers who often lose money because they donate beer and have staffing costs.”

The latest call follows criticism for festivals as a result of harassment and safety issues and questions about the way they present beer in the face of perceptions of overconsumption.

The very role of festivals has come under question as crowded bottleshop shelves become permanent beer-sampling odysseys.

Perhaps prompted by the decline, the Great American Beer Festival has amended its rule to permit breweries to serve “an additional packaged ‘beyond beer’ product” including hard seltzer, cider, hard kombucha and mead.

The GABF is run by the US Brewers Association, the organisation that takes as its mission “To promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers, and the community of brewing enthusiasts.”

Late last year, the BA announced the end of SAVOR, its food-and-beer-pairing event held in Washington, D.C., citing “a variety of factors, including rising operational costs.”

Radio Brews News first raised the evolving nature of beer weeks and festivals at a panel we hosted during Sydney Beer Week in 2018.

The Radio Brews News Facebook group hosted a very engaged discussion from industry participants on the evolving value of festivals.

Beer volumes decline in the US

While Australian data on beer consumption can best be described as ‘squishy’ even when available, data from the US points to continuing declines in comsuption.

A report from drink industry analyst IWSR shows that beer volumes in the US declined at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -2 per cent between 2017 and 2022, including a fall of -3 per cent in 2022 alone. IWSR said this pace of decline is expected to persist through to 2027.

Competition from spirits in the US is strong with spirits poised to overtake beer in the US as the market leader in terms of share of servings for the first time in modern history.

“This means that more Americans are now consuming spirits than beer on a drink-by-drink basis,” the report noted.

“In 2022, beer in the US continued the long-term trend of volume decline, with gains in the on-premise remaining below pre-pandemic levels and unable to offset off-premise losses,” says Marten Lodewijks, Director of Consulting – Americas, IWSR.

“Competition for shelf and cooler space continues to intensify, with a slew of spirit-based RTD innovations.”

This report coincided with data released by the Beer Institute, the US national trade association for the brewing industry, that showed May recording the largest year-over-year decline in domestic tax paid on beer so far this year, decreasing -7.7 per cent.

Leading industry news site Brewbound reports Domestic tax paids have declined YoY four of the five months reported by the Beer Institute so far in 2023, with the exception of February, which increased +1 per cent YoY.

“May’s decline was nearly double the previously reported -4 per cent YoY decline in April,” the site reported.

Back to News