Apr 23, 2024 - Business

Beer industry boosts ABV to compete in tough market

Animated illustration of a beer can with an alcohol by volume label that increases before changing into an infinity symbol.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Colorado beer is entering the imperial age.

State of beer: The state's most prominent breweries are promoting beers with higher alcohol content approaching 10%, essentially double the octane of a traditional beer.

Why it matters: The new offerings demonstrate how shifting consumer demand is redefining the category as breweries struggle to compete with hard seltzers, canned cocktails and lower demand from younger generations.

Zoom in: Many of these new beers are imperial IPAs packed with fruit and available in larger cans, such as Coors-owned A.C. Golden's new Mango McMango Face at 9.6% ABV in a 19.2-ounce package.

  • New Belgium Brewing's Juice Force IPA is 9.5% ABV and the company's No. 2 bestseller.
  • Breckenridge Brewery touts its new Juicy Oasis Fruited Hazy IPA as a "fruit-forward taste and powerful 9.6% ABV … [that is] perfect for both the avid hazy IPA enthusiast and the fruit-minded beer drinker."

What they're saying: "I think what we're seeing is companies looking for new ways to appeal to what is always a changing ... customer," says Bart Watson at the Boulder-based Brewers Association, the industry group for craft beer.

The big picture: The trend is being driven by consumers looking for more bang for their buck from high-alcohol beers, brewers and analysts say.

  • New Belgium's Dave Knospe, senior brand marketing director, says the interest in higher ABV beers and fruit-forward beers began during the pandemic and never lulled.

The other side: At the same time, interest in nonalcoholic and low-ABV beers is booming.

  • The trends are not contradictory, Watson says, because consumers are picking beverages for different occasions.

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