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Beer Now A Big Holiday Gift Item, Competing With Spirits And Wines

September 19, 2012

Thanks to the craft beer phenomenon, beer is no longer just a summer affair. Syndicated store data show that the year-end holidays are when craft beers perform best—and not necessarily during the height of the summer.

According to SymphonyIRI Group senior vice president Dan Wandel, the run-up to December 25 has been the top week for craft beer sales in retail stores for three straight years, with Thanksgiving week right behind. “These are now the two big holidays for craft beer,” Wandel says.

For the mainstream beer category, the week of July 4th remains the year’s top sales week.

Retailers say their customers increasingly see craft beer as a holiday gift item—often instead of wines and spirits. “A lot of beer shoppers are trading up during the holidays,” says Ken McClure, COO and beer buyer at the seven-unit Hiller’s supermarket chain in Michigan. “We have people calling as early as November 1 asking us to hold cases of Great Lakes Christmas Ale and other special-edition holiday craft beers.”

“American craft beers belong on the holiday table, just like wine,” says Brett Joyce, president of Oregon craft brewer Rogue Ales. Joyce adds that craft beers make memorable and affordable gifts—and that winter seasonal craft brews are often the top-selling seasonals of the year.

“The holidays do tend to bring an increase in sales of variety packs and seasonal brews,” agrees Wandel. Of the 28 craft beer styles tracked by SymphonyIRI during the year-end period, winter seasonals and variety packs are among the top five. For the four weeks ended December 25, 2011, seasonal craft brews accounted for a 26% share of craft beer volume, while variety packs held a 13% stake.

Savvy craft brewers have devised innovative strategies to drive year-end sales. Craft Brew Alliance, for example, next month will roll out its Winter Variety Pack, which features winter seasonals Redhook Winterhook Ale, Widmer Brothers Brr Seasonal Ale and Kona Pipeline Porter.

Other craft brewers heavily market their holiday beers as gifts. Firestone Walker Brewing’s Anniversary Ale is packaged in 22-ounce bottles ($24.99 to $30) and handsome gift boxes, just like an upscale spirits product. Aviator Brewing this year will offer a range of gift baskets in its home state of North Carolina, featuring a selection of its brews, including FrostNipper Winter Ale, priced between $19 and $55.



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