Are Lower ABV Beers Falling Out of Fashion?

These days, drinkers are skewing towards extremes: more alcohol or none

Dozens of bottles of beer with a focus on their bottle caps
The alcohol content of various beers is getting more polarizing.
Thanh Serious/Unsplash

If you’re fond of IPAs, you might have noticed something over the last few years: they’re getting stronger. Double and even triple IPAs are becoming easier to find. And while that’s not a bad thing in and of itself, a 10% ABV triple IPA isn’t something that lends itself to casual drinking as much as a session IPA or pilsner. It’s enough to make you wonder what, exactly, is going on here?

A new Washington Post article by Kate Bernot offers an explanation: For a lot of craft beer drinkers, their approach to ABV is increasingly extreme. In other words, a growing number of them are seeking out higher ABV beers or zero ABV beers, and avoiding the middle ground entirely.

It’s not that surprising. After all, there are plenty of good non-alcoholic beers out there, and if your consumption of them is more about tasting hops and socializing, why not forgo the alcohol entirely?

Bernot’s article cites data to reveal more about the polarization going on. According to data provided by the Beer Institute and NielsenIQ, beers with an 8% ABV and up increased their market share by 5% over the last four years, with non-alcoholic beers making smaller gains. Beers in the 4% to 6% range, meanwhile, lost market share in the same period of time.

There are other side effects to this polarization described in the article as well, including the winnowing popularity of the American pale ale as a style. That said, beer trends do have a way of changing, and it will be interesting to see if the demand for high-ABV IPAs continues in the coming years or if more moderate beers regain some market share.


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