Hops and Dreams

Analyzing the roots of the craft beer subculture on social media

It started in the 1970s. The American beer scene during that time, characterized by consolidation of brewing companies and frustrating homogeneity of light lagers, left many wanting. So when the industry failed to deliver, consumers started brewing their own beers, experimenting with malts, sours, and stouts. That DIY mentality spurs the craft beer subculture today. Craft beer is not the only thing brewing — the social conversation surrounding it has also grown substantially, offering valuable insights for brands.

Looking at social media data from 2010 – 2016, we analyzed the conversation on craft beer. Understanding how consumers are discussing craft beer can help brands decipher the reasons why someone may prefer one brand over another, identify upcoming trends, and understand how craft beer fits into a consumer’s life.

Crafting a Takeover

As the adoption of social media began to take off in 2010, so did the conversation about craft beer. In 2013, the craft beer conversation was nine times larger than it was in 2010. Between 2010 and 2013, there was a significant increase in the number of microbreweries in the United States, rising from 620 to 1,471. While the conversation volume decreased slightly from 2013 to 2014, it picked up again from 2014 to 2016. The desire for higher quality beer with more variety and support for local community drives interest in craft beer.

The conversation surrounding craft beer has changed throughout the years. While some aspects, like supporting local brewers and drinking beer at night in a social setting like a brewery or a festival, remained the same, a lot has changed. People still enjoy craft beers at bars with live music, but as they become more interested in the different types of craft beer, discussion about new releases increases.

Who’s Drinking Craft Beer?

It happens so fast. The kid you met junior year in high school used to drink Bud Lights at parties and Coronas at shows. But now, judging by his social media profile, he drinks craft beer exclusively, visiting microbreweries every weekend. Does a preference for craft beer come with age? Our data shows that as people get older, they show more interest in craft beer, discussing macro-brews less. The majority (55 percent) of people discussing craft beer are 35 and above while the majority (46 percent) of people discussing regular beer are 18-24.

Craft beer and regular beer drinkers have very distinct interests. Craft beer drinkers care about the quality of food and drink, with interests in chefs, food and drink, and cooking. Naturally, they are also interested in the art of brewing, with interests in breweries and home brewing. Their musical tastes include Superchunk, an indie band from North Carolina that was more active in the 1990s. Lastly, those who discuss craft beer are interested in blogging — perhaps blogging about craft beer reviews.

Regular beer drinkers’ interests indicate a younger crowd — homework, Snapchat, and high school are all indicators of students. Their coffee tastes point to Starbucks. Musically, they couldn’t be more different than craft beer drinkers’ affinity for Superchunk. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, One Direction, and country music are regular beer drinkers’ musical interests.

Conclusion

Beer has come a long way from its origins in Mesopotamia in 1800 B.C., where people paid homage to the goddess of beer, Ninkasi. Along the way, beer trends have sprung up only to fade into obscurity later, but craft beer is here to stay. Using social media insights can help craft beer brands strengthen their staying power by understanding who their consumers are and their evolving preferences.

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