Feb 14, 2023 - Food and Drink

North Carolina loves amber beer

A case of Red Oak Bavarian amber lager for sale in Durham. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

New Belgium Brewing's decision to transform its flagship Fat Tire from an amber ale into a golden ale has turned North Carolina into the new epicenter of amber beer.

Driving the news: Because Fat Tire no longer counts as an amber, North Carolina now has the No. 2 and No. 6 bestselling amber beers — Red Oak's Bavarian amber lager and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery's Copper amber ale, according to Bryan Roth, a Durham-based beverage analyst and news editor at Good Beer Hunting.

The big picture: Amber beers have declined in popularity and represent only 1.8% of craft beer sales, according to market research firm IRI.

  • As craft drinkers' palates turned toward fruity and hopped-up IPAs, it came at the expense of the relatively tamer ambers.

Yes, but: Red Oak's and OMB's sales have proven resilient. Red Oak amber has more than doubled its sales at chain retailers since 2017 and OMB's Copper sales grew 1.9% last year, a rarity for an industry that declined overall in 2022, according to Roth.

What's next: Roth said there's a chance Red Oak could soon overtake the now No. 1 selling amber, Alaskan Brewing's, as its sales volume has fallen to half of what it was in 2017.


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