Craft breweries, which in many ways spurred a new type of beer drinker over the past decade, are especially ripe for a revival in 2022 and beyond. And while the share of beer sales overall has been declining on Drizly in recent years, retailers report they are planning to increase their craft beer offerings moving forward.

The IWSR notes that the “entrepreneurial spirit” of craft breweries will help the category quickly recover from pandemic-related slumps, and a “buy local” approach will help small-batch local breweries.

“The outlook for beer remains challenging into the future as the heightened level of consumer choice will continue to sway beer drinkers into competing categories,” says Adam Rogers, the North American research director at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. 

Rogers adds that while the overall beer category is expected to decrease by volume through 2025 (excluding hard seltzers and flavored alcohol beverages), “craft beer is expected to increase volumes into the future, driven by a long-awaited return to on-site consumption compounded by demand for quality products at the local and hyper-local levels.”

The on-premise isn’t the only place where craft beer can expect to see more exposure. E-commerce alcohol sales as a whole are expected to stay elevated compared to pre-pandemic sales trends. The IWSR notes that while beer has historically been under-traded when it comes to online sales, pandemic sales trends have escalated demand. The IWSR report further notes that online shopping is now “five years ahead of where it was expected to be.”

Craft Beer Presents an Opportunity for Increased Online Sales

“Sales of beer online will continue to increase year-over-year due to the category being less representative in the growing channel,” says Rogers, adding that beer, cider, and RTDs “are forecasted to collectively increase volumes at a category annual growth rate of 39 percent through 2025, outpacing wine and spirits growth due to lower base size.”

Having a selection of the most popular craft beers can lead to more online sales overall on Drizly because consumers on Drizly shop by the product first rather than by the store. 

“A wide craft selection will allow retailers to set themselves apart from other stores that are also selling online,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “Many craft producers have loyal followings, meaning that consumers are seeking out these products and will shop from the stores that have them available in their online inventory. Typically, on Drizly, consumers order from the store that has the first item they are looking for, so having these products in stock could also drive sales for other categories and more mainstream products.” 

Keeping the brands that consumers are familiar with in stock is a good way to earn more online sales overall. When thinking about craft beer, retailers can look at brands in two ways: Brands that are commonly considered craft by consumers, and brands that are considered craft by the Brewers Association’s definition, which takes ownership into account. There’s some overlap between the two.

Drizly’s Top-Selling Craft Beer Brands (by Consumer Definition), 2021

  1. Lagunitas
  2. Blue Moon
  3. Samuel Adams
  4. Founders Brewing Company
  5. Dogfish Head
  6. Bell’s Brewery
  7. Yuengling
  8. New Belgium Brewing Company
  9. Sierra Nevada

Drizly’s Top-Selling Craft Beer Brands (by Brewers Association Definition), 2021

  1. Samuel Adams
  2. Dogfish Head
  3. Yuengling
  4. Sierra Nevada
  5. Sixpoint
  6. Night Shift
  7. Victory Brewing Company
  8. Lawson’s Finest Liquids
  9. Stone Brewing Co.
  10. Allagash

Competition From Hard Seltzer, Liquor, and RTDs

“Beer share has been declining in recent years on Drizly, mostly a result of share shift toward the liquor category,” says Paquette. “That’s driven by a surge in categories like whiskey, tequila, and ready-to-drink cocktails.”

Though beer accounted for a 17 percent share of sales on Drizly in 2021, it has only a 13 percent share when hard seltzers aren’t included.

According to IWSR data, beer sales share has gone from 87 percent total alcohol volume in 1990 to 72 percent in 2020. Some breweries, including top craft beer brands like Boston Beer Co. (maker of Samuel Adams, Truly Hard Seltzer, and Twisted Tea), have expanded into other alcohol categories to match market demand.

Though beer has lost ground to other categories, the IWSR expects the beer category to balance out in the United States as underperforming brands drop off and priority brands and innovation are dialed in. 

Many retailers are looking to increase their craft beer selection and decrease the number of hard seltzer SKUs. In Drizly’s 2021 Retail Report, 57 percent of retailers plan to stock more craft beer in 2022, ahead of hard seltzer at 50 percent. Only eight percent of retailers plan to stock less craft beer this year, compared to 23 percent for hard seltzer.

“We think this suggests that many retailers may feel they have over-indexed or are at capacity for hard seltzer shelf space at the same time as they potentially are seeing a resurgence in consumer interest in craft beer, leading them to want to dedicate more shelf space to the category,” says Paquette.

Drizly’s Top-Selling Craft Beer SKUs (by Consumer Definition), 2021

  1. Blue Moon Belgian White Wheat Craft Beer
  2. Lagunitas IPA
  3. Founders All Day IPA
  4. Yuengling Traditional Lager
  5. Pabst Blue Ribbon
  6. Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine IPA
  7. Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA
  8. Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA
  9. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  10. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale IPA

Drizly’s Top-Selling Craft Beer SKUs (by Brewers Association Definition), 2021

  1. Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine IPA
  2. Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing IPA
  3. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  4. Allagash White
  5. Victory Golden Monkey
  6. Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai IPA
  7. Kona Big Wave Golden Ale
  8. Mighty Squirrel Cloud Candy IPA
  9. Shiner Bock
  10. Lord Hobo Boomsauce Double IPA

Future Potential for Craft Beer

Rogers notes that craft beer presents an opportunity with consumers who are “once again seeking an experience, increasing visits to the local brewery,” and contributing to overall category growth. This means retailers should consider local options along with national best-sellers.

“We see strong consumer demand for locally produced craft brands,” says Paquette, “so we recommend retailers familiarize themselves with producers in their market and state, and then stock fan favorites.”

While standby favorites are important to many consumers, new options shouldn’t be ignored, whether it’s a new SKU from an established brewery with brand recognition or a new brand altogether.  

“The most robust volume growth occurs from new brands,” says Rogers. “And considering there were 848 new breweries added to the market in 2021, there will be no lack of new brands enticing consumers.”