Is Your Home a Brewery Yet?

Charting the rise of homebrewing through social media conversations

If you’ve considered ditching store-bought beer in favour of experimenting with a new craft homebrew, congratulations — you may either be a hipster or a millennial, or both. Either way, you’re part of an emerging crowd nursing a new hobby.

Today, changing palettes and expanded access leave consumers wanting more from their regular bottle of beer. Consumers’ evolving tastes have them demanding more, and this need is being met by a plethora of craft beers lining up at store shelves. Micro-breweries are popping up from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon (and everywhere in between), and the largest beer brands have started sharking them up.

But the demand for more bespoke, smaller-scale beers doesn’t stop with craft brews. Increasingly, beer fans are taking matters into their own hands by brewing their own at home — more than 1.2 million homebrewers have mushroomed across the country.

Unsurprisingly, these DIYers are not shy about trading tips and guidance online. Social media has become a hotbed for both fledgling and experienced homebrewers.  

Crimson Hexagon analyzed millions of social media posts to chart the rise of homebrewing in America. In this post, we identify the major themes propelling the conversation and the popularity of the trend, including:

  • How the homebrewing discussion has changed over time
  • The major topics within the conversation
  • Comparing the homebrewing discussion to the craft beer

And, as consumers become familiar with the brewing techniques and develop a nuanced appreciation for quality and flavor, they are more inclined to experiment with homebrews. Although the topic on social makes up only 3% of the overall beer discussion, it has been steadily rising year over year. As more people get into homebrewing, they tend to discuss the purchase of home brewing kits, which are considered trendy gifts.

What About Homebrewing?

We know that the social audience is interested in homebrewing, but what are they discussing in particular? Homebrewing is regarded as taking one’s passion for craft beer to the next level.

But when it comes to realities of the hobby, people are still concerned about the costs of buying the necessary tools. Despite the monetary costs and the time investment associated with brewing their own beer, many consumers believe that the higher quality makes it worth it.

Craft Beer..Foe or Friend?

When comparing the share of voice of homebrewing and craft beer, the latter has always had a bigger share of voice, but the homebrewing conversation grew from early 2011 until 2013, when it was made legal in all 50 states.

The conversation tapered from 2013 to 2015. Did craft beer cannibalize the homebrewing market? Business trends suggest so. Homebrewing was meant to take the liking for craft beer to the next level but reports suggest that the growing craft beer market might be hurting, rather than helping homebrew shops.

Forbes quoted the American Homebrewers Association reporting that the number of physical U.S. homebrew shops that had peaked at 820 in early 2016, dropped to 808 by the end of the year. Revenues at all companies homebrew supplies companies clocked in double digit growth consistently from 2009 to 2012. This growth not only slowed down dramatically between 2013 and 2014, but went negative in 2015.

Even if correlation does not equal causation, social conversations mirror this trend, as seen in the graph above. However, over the past year homebrewing has made a comeback, going from 10% to almost 20% share of voice in this particular conversation.

Homebrewing was yesterday’s next big thing, and this is bound to change tomorrow. As the beer market matures, the changes are manifested in evolving consumer tastes and demands — with respect to flavors, convenience and costs. But social media will always be a source of specific insights into how these conversations are evolving, and how new trends leads to novel discoveries. This is a part of a larger series on consumer packaged goods. Download today our larger report on consumer opinions of beverages in the consumer packaged goods industry.

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