Food and Micros May Be Saving the Brewpubs

Don't sound the final death knell for brewpubs quite yet. Despite a steady flow of stories noting the decline in beer sales, especially among young and female consumer, and the shuttering of numerous craft breweries around the country, at least one major industry publisher finds hope in brewpubs' futures.

Restaurants & Institutions (registration necessary to access, but free) senior editor Kristina Buchtal reports positive things in her story "Better Business Brewing: Rising popularity of microbrews buoys brewpubs’ success."

In a story that hopscotches around the country, Buchtal zeroes in on the more innovate food and beer menus that are pulling people back. As she notes, "When Cosmopolitans and Manhattans regained their popularity, they brought along some unlikely companions: stouts and ales. While sales have been flat for mass-produced domestic beers, sales of 'craft beer,' also called microbrews, have multiplied.

"The result has been a boon for brewpubs as more consumers choose small-batch brews and menu items to accompany them. Food accounts for upward of 50% of sales at many brewpubs, and menus are more varied and sophisticated than what was common a decade ago."

Buchtal isn't totally starry-eyed about the brewpub niche, however. She does take note of a report from Technomic Inc., the Chicago food service consultancy, that says "Mixed drinks this year surpassed beer in on-premise alcoholic-beverage sales. Long the reigning champion of on-site alcohol sales, national-brand beers remain strong but with slower growth."

Technomic says craft beers accounted for a mere 3.2% of beer consumed nationwide in 2004, by barrels. But craft beer, a $3.5 billion segment last year, represents the domestic brewing industry’s only robust growth segment.

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