Why have craft beers increased in alcohol content?
From my point of view there seems to be at least three reasons for this trend.
- Beer drinkers are drawn to the bolder flavors and the mouth feel of stronger beers.
- The higher alcohol content gives such beers a longer shelf life.
- Stronger beers do not have to be served at cooler temperatures as lighter beers, some can be served somewhat warm.
- Part of craft beer's popularity is in its variety, including high ABV beers.
What is driving the popularity of high alcohol beers, and will it last?
With the surge in popularity of craft beers, the alcohol content in a good many of them has also risen. While most large breweries turn out beer with an ABV (alcohol by volume) around 4 to 5 percent, some craft beers boast ABV counts of up to 29 percent, with the average being 5.9 percent.
The American IPA trend among craft brewers exploits this proclivity toward higher alcohol content, with most being between 6 and 10 percent. Double and triple IPAs are even higher. Most craft brewers now have at least one higher ABV variety, and much of it has been driven by consumer demand.
Why do consumers like higher alcohol beers?
Much of the appeal has to do with taste. Higher ABV beers tend to have a richer, more complex taste that can sometimes be on the bitter side. Fans are drawn to the bolder flavors and the mouth feel of these stronger beers, some of which may be barrel-aged like stronger spirits. Instead of having three or four beers, they may share one with a friend to compensate for its strength.
The popularity of higher ABV beers persists in spite of their steeper price tag. A decanter bottle of Sam Adams Utopia, with an ABV of 29 percent, can cost as much as $200. Another factor in popularity with both brewers and drinkers is that the higher alcohol content gives it a longer shelf life. Either way, consumers tend to identify beers with higher ABV as being higher quality.