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During the past couple of years, the variety of beers found in supermarkets in Germany has vastly increased. There is a number of beers that I remember having always been there, and a few have been added over time. But these don’t stick out much in price or flavour.

Recently, I heard the term micro brewery for the first time, and I noticed that large supermarkets have stocked up on many different (mostly regional) beers. Prices start at “slightly above average”, but some are easily ten times as expensive. A bottle of beer for 7 Euros? Not the most expensive.

This, and the fact that beer.stackexchange.com exists, and that many questions concern micro breweries and craft beers leads me to the questions:

Why this sudden interest in micro breweries and craft beers? When did it start?

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I'm not sure about the German market for craft, but American craft can almost certainly be traced back to Frederick Maytag's purchase of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing in 1965. Since then, 'craft' or 'microbrew' grew slowly through the years.

A lengthy but interesting report called THE MARKET FOR CRAFT AND SPECIALTY BEER, A Market Intelligence Report, March 1997 has an impressive description of why craft in particular was able to keep growing, and why it wasn't labeled a 'fad':

"There is also a floor under the craft/specialty segment. This is not a fad segment like packaged draft, dry, ice, clear, or perhaps even red. While growth in the craft segment will slow, it will not peak quickly and then lose share, as the fad beers have. The craft/specialty segment has firm underpinnings from homebrewers and other beer aficionados. Many of the homebrewers prefer to brew their own beer (done right, it’s even better than the best of the craft brews), but they often sample commercial brews to try unfamiliar or difficult-to-brew styles, and of course they’re top prospects for drinking craft brews when they are at a restaurant or brewpub."

That explains a lot through the 90's, but why the quicker increase in growth patterns in the last 10 years?

According to the Brewers Association (a US-based trade group):

"Between 2011 and 2013, 80% of craft growth came from new craft appreciators, the majority of which were in the 21 to 29 age group, and their impact is still muted. Lester Jones of the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) sees Millennials as not fully economically activated yet due to the impact of the economic recession and their struggle to transition into aging Baby Boomer jobs. This means as the economy improves we should feel the impact of the Millennials even more. The message here is the fastest growing and most influential demographic is also moving the fastest toward craft."

Pair this with the increased ideals behind "Trade-ups and premiumization", and you have people willing to spend a little more to gain an perceived increase in value and quality.

IBISWorld shares that craft beer has enjoyed a 19% growth in the past 5 years. I don't know about you, but that's incredible considering the economic woes of developed nations.

It appears to boil down to a long, slow pattern of growth that has reached a massive generational shift in consumption which has caused a spike in sales volume, which in turn is pushing every store from New Jersey to Frankfurt to attempt to capitalize on one of the few growth industries.

  • Thank you very much for this detailed and well-document answer (it was a complex question)! It’s interesting to see growth in a specific trade unproportionally connected to the baby boom: I’d never have guessed! My guess was that one huge factor is the increase in “hipster culture”, but since that affects more or less the same age group, maybe this cultural development and the baby boom are connected as well. I’ll accept your answer in a couple of days unless other users prove you wrong :) – Philipp Aug 18 '15 at 7:49
  • Of course. It's funny that Germany really had a sort-of 'craft' movement for centuries before this boom, what with all of the regional specific beers. As for price, you should see some of the crazy limited release craft beers in the US that go for almost $30 for 750ml. – Charlemange Aug 18 '15 at 14:52

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