Beer Week by the Numbers


Dear Client:

San Francisco Beer Week makes its thirdcoming Friday. One of the largest and earliest such market-specific craft beer celebrations in the nation, it highlights some unique opportunities the nation's 30-something beer weeks provide. Traditionally, the week's focus has been celebrations at brewery tap rooms and brew pubs. But in 2010, breweries and distributors starting asking their accounts to prioritize American Craft Beer Week, according to the BA's Julia Herz. It makes sense: San Francisco's event, for example, will showcase newsworthy events like nanobrewery introductions and ever-popular collaborations, according to Magnolia Pub and Brewery owner Dave McLean.

"This is a grassroots celebration to its core with no national advertising so participation is organic just as growth of the craft beer segment has been," said Julia, who will reveal more about national-level American Craft Beer Week later this month.

INTENSE MEDIA. There might be no national advertising but in each beer week market there tends to be intensive advertising surrounding its events. Oregon Brewers Guild chief Brian Butenschoen said their own beer month (changed from beer week in 2006) always takes out a 16-page color pull out in the state's largest newspaper. Everyone knows when it's beer month in Oregon, he says. That's a huge opportunity for local breweries, and those who want recognition from out-of-state. Brian told BBD out-of-state breweries sell something on the order of 600 kegs at the event.

MIXED NUMBERS. In the Oregon market, craft beer sales were up 11.3% during July last year; in 2009, craft beer case sales were up 34% in the Portland market, according to Symphony IRI numbers. This was during July, usually already strong month for beer sales (though Brian says they can be slow if you don't have a patio).

Predictably, markets that have their beer weeks (or months) during less-strong seasons see the biggest bump: San Francisco experienced a 21.5% sales bump in the three week period in February surrounding their beer week last year; the 52-week average for the market ending Jan. 23 was a 10% bump. But Atlanta's beer week last year occurred in May, and it experienced only a modest bump in sales from the 52-week number; a 31.2% jump vs. a 30% jump, respectively.

ON-PREMISE TRENDS. Quantifying on-premise trends is always more difficult, but Erin Wallace said her Devil's Den pub in Philadelphia always sees a jump during the city's beer week. People come out a couple of more nights a week, she said, driven by rare releases and brewer visits. Beer weeks tend to be a boon for on-premise activity; in Philly's case, there were 1,000 events and 195 participating breweries, restaurants and bars last year, the majority of players being the latter two. This increased traffic makes it a good time for breweries to enter new markets - in fact, Great Lakes Brewing entered the Philly market during their last beer week.

OFF-PREMISE DRIVERS. Predictably, specialized SKUs and callouts help sell beer during these occasions. Oregon Brewers Guild chief Brian said a TPR tags and neckers with the OCBM logo in stores like Albertsons, Fred Meyer and QFC Stores have helped move local beer during the special month; 2008 and 2009 IRI numbers showed a bump over non-tagged SKU's, and beer sales increases in craft dollar sales were up over the previous six month average, he said.

A TALE OF TWO SEASONALS. Interestingly, seasonals don't always do gangbusters during beer weeks. Last year, San Francisco's beer week craft seasonal sales were up 43.5% way up over the 52-week average ending Jan. 23 of 11.9%. But during New York Beer Week last September-October, craft seasonal sales dropped under the 52-week average - up 19.3% vs. 22%, respectively.

All in all, the ever-growing number of beer weeks offer the industry an unparalleled opportunity to showcase their goods. "Do it well and, hopefully, we make a ton of new fans and keep our old ones," says Magnolia's Dave McLean.


Bud Light's Dogsitting tied Doritos for the number one spot, the first time that's happened. Also of note, A-B ran a Stella Artois ad featuring actor Adrien Brody.

The next A-B ad that scored on the AdMeter rang in at No. 13, the kitchen redo with Bud Light. The competition has stepped up its game and A-B has leveraged the ads it ran with social networking and digital.

The next one rang in at No. 16, Bud's "Tiny Dancer" ad that features the Clydesdales. The next ad that scored was No. 5 7 Bud Light's "Product Placement" ad. All in, it wasn't A-B's best showing for what is the largest showcase for consumer goods ads. But, of course, we should take the USA Today methodology with a grain of salt. Awards aside, it's all about whether it sells more beer. We shall soon see.

Ad Age critic Ken Wheaton put it succinctly, in a piece that's thesis was that all the ads were lackluster. He writes: "It seemed like we could always count on Bud and Bud Light to give us something-- Clydesdales acting like people, guys being dumb. Even when it was bad -- the farting horse, for example -- it was still worth a chuckle. But this year? Oof. If there's an opposite of most-improved, Anheuser-Busch would take home the prize. It's almost as if there's no clear marketing leader over there. It was enough to make me long for the days of Bud Bowl." Well now that's a luke warm approval. But as we've said, AdMeter and other "award's" results don't always translate into beer sales, and it's a difficult variable to quantify. If A-B ran no ads during the Super Bowl, how different would their 52 week trends be? Impossible to know.

Until tomorrow, Harry

"Cockroaches and socialites are the only things that can stay up all night and eat anything."
-Herb Caen

- Join us at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami on March 6 - 7, 2011 for our annual beer industry confab. More info here:

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