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Is China The New Craft Beer Market?

Is China The New Craft Beer Market?

Studies show that because of a rising middle class, China is going to grasp onto the craft beer trend.

China consumes more than 50 billion litters of beer per year.

The drink that people seem to craving most this summer (and over the past few years) is craft beer. And we get it; it’s beer but more awesome, individualized, and with more personality. Germany, France and Latin America are among the new markets around the globe are tapping (no pun intended) into the trend, but China might just be the most successful. Why is that? The country has the largest beer market in the world.

The country’s Craft Brewers Association only has five member breweries, and the entire nation only has about 30 microbreweries and brew pubs. Don’t let this fool you; the nation consumes more than 50 billion litters of beer per year.

What’s the key factor hinting at the rising star craft beer industry? A growing middle class. "With continued rapid rises in average incomes and the general feel-good factor about China’s continued economic growth, consumers are not only drinking more beer, but are also beginning to drink more expensive beers,” said the Director of Chine Research at Mintel, Matthew Crabbe.

Carly Setzer, a Cleveland native, is excited about this news. Setzer is the co-founder of Great Leap Brewing in Beijing. The Asia Society interviewed him this week, noting that China has picked up his product. “The biggest piece of advice would be to study Chinese earnestly before you go into business in China. … There is no magical way to do business in China. There is only case-by-case experience and know-how," he said to the Asia Society.

The 64 Best Craft Beer Gifts [2021] – The only list you’ll need.

Looking for gift ideas for the beer lover in your life? I&rsquove got a list as long as the line at the bar filled with craft beer gifts and beer of the month club suggestions that are sure to make your favorite beer drinker very happy.

Is beer at the top of your wish list? Share this list with friends and family and make their shopping a breeze.


AB InBev, Alibaba Get Crafty in China’s Beer Market

Michael Jordan has been brewing beer for over 20 years with all kinds of ingredients. These days, he’s testing out something new: consumer insights from Tmall, China’s largest B2C shopping site.

Jordan is the brewmaster at Boxing Cat Brewery in Shanghai, owned by global beer brand Anheuser-Busch InBev. His team has partnered with the Tmall Innovation Center, the market-research arm of Alibaba, to become the first company to make a craft beer tailored specifically for China.

Watch:New CNY Feast: Duck, Dumplings and Orange-Chocolate Beer

Boxing Cat leveraged TMIC’s analytics, along with feedback from consumers both online and off, to find out exactly what appeals to Chinese beer enthusiasts. For one, Chinese drinkers like a dark beer. But they wanted this new brew with a twist. The result: a porter beer with hints of orange and chocolate.

The finished product, auspiciously named “Big Luck Big Win,” was launched on Tmall just in time for Chinese New Year.

“This is a complete reverse approach,” Jordan said. “We can directly work with the consumers to find out their preferences. This bypasses the sales and marketing steps and just goes straight to the brewers to create a new product based on what they prefer.”

Crafting a China-Only Craft Beer

China’s love for beer is well-known. The country not only quaffs the most amount of beer in the world (around $80 billion annually), it is also the largest beer producer in the world.

In recent years, China’s thirst for suds has slowly pivoted away from commercial beers to craft brews, luring many international beer makers to target this particular market segment. Sales of craft beers in the China market have grown around 40% annually since 2015, research firm Kantar said. With a more-crowded, competitive landscape, it’s even more important for AB InBev to stay ahead of the game.

“We can’t expect all trends to be driven by the American craft beer scene or the English craft beer scene. There is a lot of inspiration to draw from China,” said Boxing Cat Brand Manager Kelsey Willis.

Industry observers have high hopes for China’s burgeoning beer market, pointing to the country’s middle-class – forecast by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to hit around 850 million strong by 2030 – as the main growth driver.

“The increasing demand for more premium beer offerings in China is being driven by the country’s young, middle-income consumer segment, with the tier-one cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin offering the greatest volume of this consumer group, as well as large numbers of bars and restaurants for the distribution of more premium alcohol offerings,” according to a study by Beer Connoisseur.

“The Chinese craft beer market is in its infancy, but at the same time, it’s growing rapidly. A beer education is something very important, and by talking to the consumer with directly through TMIC, we are able to educate the consumers and learn more about what they think,” said Willis.

Research, Analyze, Decode

Established in April 2017, TMIC uses consumer insights drawn from Alibaba’s nearly 700 million shoppers to help brands such as AB InBev create innovative products, services and marketing campaigns targeted to the China market. That research includes everything from online surveys, to offline events, to even algorithms to study consumer behavior.

TMIC also allows brands to test their new products on Tmall, where they get real-time feedback from consumers. All products co-created with TMIC sell exclusively on Tmall for a period of time, during which their performance is monitored so brands can make adjustments if needed to ensure success.

“TMIC has direct access to the Chinese consumers, and it is really able to give us more-targeted idea about who we want to move forward and create beers for them,” said Kelsey Willis, brand manager for Boxing Cat. “When we get information from TMIC, it’s not broad stroke. It’s insightful and targeted data.”

To date, TMIC has worked with dozens of brands to create a handful of just-for-China products, such as a vanilla-flavored Listerine for Johnson & Johnson, spicy Snickers for Mars and even sport-utility vehicles for Italian carmaker Maserati.

“By really looking at the insights and analytics we gathered from TMIC, I think we have made a craft beer that will fit the Chinese New Year occasion perfectly,” said Willis.

3 craft beer makers share their recipes for success

America’s craft brewers are riding a wave of success: ever-expanding craft-beer sections in supermarkets, craft-beer festivals in most major cities and even university programs in the art and business of making craft beer. In 2013, sales from craft brewers hit a record $14.3 billion—an increase of 20% from the previous year, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. (The pace continued in 2014, with 18% growth through midyear, according to the association.)

Still, craft brewers face their share of challenges. Like many small businesses, they’re not big enough to benefit from certain economies of scale. Plus, they face challenges unique to their business, from dealing with federal, state and local laws governing the sale and production of anything alcoholic to fighting large-scale brewers for market share. (The major beer brands still control more than 90% of the U.S. beer market, as measured by volume.)

With that in mind, we asked three prominent craft brewers how their business came to be and how they rose to the challenge. Here’s what they had to say.

Odell Brewing Co.

Fort Collins, Colo.
Number of employees: 107
Year founded: 1989
Annual sales: Company doesn’t release dollar figures but says it sold close to 100,000 barrels in 2014.

How the brewery came to be: Odell started as a family affair and remains so to this day. Doug Odell was a home brewer his wife, Wynne, was a “bored banker” (her words). They pooled their beer-making and business skills and started the brewery with Corkie Odell, Doug’s sister, with an initial outlay of $135,000.

The trio felt confident that the college-town location of Fort Collins would provide a good base. But it wasn’t easy at first. “We had no distribution options other than delivering from our own Toyota pickup truck,” Wynne says.

A business challenge: The price of expansion is a big one, since breweries “are obscenely capital-intensive businesses,” says Wynne. A case in point: A new German-made brewing system, installed in 2013, cost Odell $2.5 million. But it was a necessary purchase because it allowed the brewery to ramp up production beyond 80,000 barrels, and Odell had already made a commitment to expand into the Texas market in 2014, almost doubling its customer base. (Odell Brewing is in 11 states in all.)

The plan for growth: Though the brewery is a mature business that has marked its 25th anniversary, the Odells still anticipate 20% annual growth in the near term. They are looking to add a new barrel room (barrel-aged beers are becoming hot) and bottling facility to keep up with demand.

Jack’s Abby Brewing

Framingham, Mass.
Number of employees: 25
Year founded: 2011
Annual sales: Company doesn’t release dollar figures but says it brewed 14,500 barrels in 2014.

How the brewery came to be: This is another family affair: Brothers Eric, Jack and Sam Hendler say they always planned to join forces in a business after having grown up alongside each other in their father and uncle’s packaged-ice company. “We knew we wanted to work together. The beer part came later,” says Sam. The trio benefited from Jack’s beer knowledge—he actually got a degree in brewing technology—and pooled $1 million of family money to open Jack’s Abby. (The name refers to Jack and his wife, Abby, but it is also a play on abbey, since some of the greatest brewers of all times were monks.)

Jack is the trio’s brew master, while Eric handles the business side and Sam takes charge of the sales. To complete the family picture, the business sources some of the ingredients in its beer from its 80-acre family farm, such as the pumpkins that go into the brewery’s pumpkin lager.

A business challenge: These days, it’s particularly hard for craft brewers to find the best hops (the flowers that impart that signature bitter taste to beer). Hops “need to be secured with contracts multiple years in advance,” says Sam—and that’s a major challenge when a business is expanding so rapidly that it can’t predict what supplies it will need down the road. Since its inception, Jack’s Abby is averaging 150% annual growth.

The plan for growth: The company would like to expand beyond its current small base of three states (Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York). “Ultimately, we see ourselves as a regional brewer” throughout the Northeast, says Sam.

The Commons Brewery

Portland, Ore.
Number of employees: 7
Year founded: 2010
Annual sales: $845,000

How the brewery came to be: Founder Michael Wright was an IT project manager by day and a home brewer by night. But his beer-making obsession got the best of him, so he gave up his job and pursued his dream.

Mr. Wright started out by running the craft operation out of his garage and within a year, he was able to lease a 1,500-square-foot space and “become a legitimate small-production brewery,” he says. He admits his initial investment was minuscule compared with that of other brewers—just $85,000: “We had the minimum necessary equipment and space to produce small-batch beers….I didn’t have more [money] than that, so it just had to work.”

A business challenge: Being in the business of making alcoholic beverages typically means dealing with a three-tier distribution system that’s been in effect since Prohibition—as in the brewery sells to the distributor, who then sells to the retailer. The process adds a middleman to the equation to theoretically keep business practices in check and curb abuses.

But for craft brewers, it just makes things all the more difficult and costly, says Mr. Wright: “Getting product to market is complex.”

The plan for growth: Given that he purchased a $1.5 million building in June 2014 to expand the business and grew at a 30% clip in the past year, Mr. Wright feels that his trajectory is in place. He does plan on buying some new equipment in the next year. But he’s hesitant to do anything with the support of outside investors—or to sell The Commons altogether. “I’m enjoying this journey far too much to give it up,” Mr. Wright says.

China's brews

China is the world's largest beer market by sales but firms have found it challenging amid fierce competition between local brewers and global beer giants.

China Resources Beer has more than 25% market share in the Chinese market, according to Reuters. Its vastly popular Snow beer is the top-selling beer in the world by volume.

The company is the largest local brewer by market value, followed by Tsingtao Brewery and Chongqing Brewery, Refinitiv data shows.

While the local Chinese brewers have a strong presence in the regional share market, the beer market in China is still largely fragmented, Hong said.

He added that China's tipple of choice is still the baijiu, a traditional drink made from fermented grain that holds sway in the country.

"The segment that is really doing well is the baijiu . so it remains to be seen how much further growth the company can get from the Chinese market," he said, referring to Budweiser APAC.

About half of all beer consumed across the globe are sold by AB InBev, Heineken, Carlsberg and China's Snow.

In addition to Budweiser, AB InBev also owns other popular beers such as Stella Artois, Corona and Hoegaarden.


Who knew that &ldquomicro&rdquo wasn&rsquot even as small as a brewery could get? Apparently everyone, as &ldquonanobreweries&rdquo have taken the craft beer scene by storm over the past couple of years.

For those of you at home who aren&rsquot science majors or aren&rsquot up-to-date on your Apple products, the next step down from &ldquonano&rdquo would be &ldquopico,&rdquo which doesn&rsquot quite have the same ring to it. Breweries around the country seem to be in agreement with the nickname, so we&rsquoll stick with &ldquonanobrewery&rdquo for now.

Whereas microbreweries have clearly defined terms and limits &ndash they must be small, independent, and traditional have a production size of less than 15,000 beer barrels a year (less than 6 million for &ldquoregional craft breweries&rdquo) and cannot be more than 24% owned by another alcoholic beverage company that is not itself a craft brewery &ndash the definition of a nanobrewery is shrouded in a little more mystery. It is commonly thought that a nanobrewery is defined as a brewery that produces no more than 3 barrels of beer in one batch. A brand new New Hampshire law has added more structure to what a nanobrewery is though, defining them as breweries that produce less than 2,000 barrels annually.

So why is it important that we know exactly what a nanobrewery is? Well, because they&rsquore popping up all over the country at an increasing rate. America&rsquos demand for craft beer isn&rsquot going to subside any time soon, and everyone from artisans to entrepreneurs is looking for a piece of the action. Love homebrewing and think that your stuff is actually good enough to sell? Start a nanobrewery. Want to test the local market to see if there&rsquos room for another brewery? Open a nanobrewery.

Nanobreweries are often the first step toward becoming full-blown microbreweries or brewpubs. Many national brands have started as nanobreweries, including Dogfish Head in Delaware. Here in Denver, nanobreweries are in high demand, and have taken over some unconventional spaces for the opportunity to sell their beer to the masses. Wit&rsquos End Brewing Company opened in the spring of 2011 in an industrial business complex, but has seen their nanobrewery grow by leaps and bounds to become a local favorite in less than two years. Owner and brewer Scott Witsoe brews every batch on a one-barrel system, which allows them to not only be very intimate with the brewing process, but also gives them the flexibility to try out new recipes. Their beers are some of the most unique in town, using ingredients like Chinese rock candy sugar, oatmeal for an IPA, roasted pumpkin seeds, and palm sugar.

De Steeg Brewing gets their name from the Dutch word for &ldquoalley&rdquo because the entrance to the nanobrewery is actually in an alley behind a Thai restaurant. Opened in February of this year in the northwest region of Denver, De Steeg manages to defy its small stature and hard to find location by supplying a good amount of craft beer lovers with interesting brews. They brew on a 1.25 barrel system, and have produced unique beers, such as an Imperial Pumpkin Ale and a Pomegranate Acai Wheat. Even tucked away in an alley, craft beer and nanobreweries have found a way to succeed.

A current list of nanobreweries is maintained online by Hess Brewing Co. out of San Diego, and it&rsquos a great way to find new craft beer in your area. With 93 nanobreweries in operation and 51 in the planning stages, there&rsquos bound to be a small nanobrewery serving up some great craft beer wherever you may be.

Beer talk: IPA haze is the craze, but not in Rochester


Rochester bar owner on how well New England-style IPAs sell at his bar. (Oct. 1, 2016)

Buy Photo

Beer columnist Will Cleveland sampling Trillium's Melcher Street IPA. Trillium (Boston) brews New England-style IPAs, which is a style that no brewery in Rochester produces. (Photo: CARLOS ORTIZ/@CFORTIZ_DANDC/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER) Buy Photo

Haze is the rage in craft beer right now.

Drive five hours east to Massachusetts to breweries such as Tree House and Trillium or six hours northeast to Vermont to places such as Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist, and you'll see craft beer nerds lining up for beer, especially über-fresh India pale ales designed to be consumed within 30 days.

Check out beer delivery schedules on Tuesdays for IPAs from Grimm Artisanal Ales, and you will see people lining up in Rochester for a small allotment of canned beers.

People are willingly lining up for hoppy beers. Specifically, beer nerds are seeking out New England-style IPAs.

These IPAs, which are generally in the range of 6.5 percent to 8 percent alcohol, feature low bitterness, medium to full mouthfeel (possibly due to a heavy use of oat or wheat in the malt bill) and a hazy appearance, and they generally use the sexiest hops available. The designer hops, including Mosaic, Citra and Galaxy, are super tropical and don't feature the typical piney and earthy notes most associate with American IPAs.

But what draws most craft beer nerds to the style? NE-style IPAs are generally easy to drink, often deceptively so.

"Some people didn’t like any of the IPAs that I brewed before, because most were in the West Coast tradition (super hoppy with strong notes of pine and grapefruit),” said Ben Maeso, the header brewer at Prison City Brewing in Auburn, Caygua County, whose Mass Riot IPA was recently ranked as the best in the country. "They are trying the New England style and loving them. They’re saying, ‘I don’t like IPAs, but I love this.' It’s more approachable than a traditional IPA, because of its lack of bitterness. They appeal to everyone."


Area brewers on why no one here is making a hazy, juice bomb. (Oct. 2, 2016)

No brewery in Rochester currently makes this style. It's the one that local craft beer nerds are clamoring for. Some are making beers that come close, but no one has fully embraced it. But at least three local breweries, including Canandaigua's Three Huskies, will tackle the style in the coming months.

“It’s interesting to see a style that used to be fairly homogeneous diversify, even by region," said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Colorado-based Brewers Association. "Places really develop their own styles and people tend to enjoy them.”


Beer talk: Pioneering Rohrbach evolves, grows

Watson said IPAs are the most dominant and desired style in craft beer. He noted that 28 cents of every dollar spent on off-premise consumption (meaning purchased at supermarkets or convenience stores) of craft beer is spent on IPAs.

"Clearly, a lot of American craft beer lovers have developed a love of hops," he added. "Malty and bitter is clearly a flavor profile people like. IPAs have really become a platform for innovation. It’s no longer just American-style IPAs."

Two examples of a New England-style IPA, Trillium (Boston) Melcher Street IPA and Upstate (Horseheads) Double IPA. New England-style is very cloudy, hazy, and juicy. No brewery in Rochester currently makes this sought-after style. (Photo: CARLOS ORTIZ/@CFORTIZ_DANDC/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

So why is no one in Rochester making this style? It seems to boil down to three main factors:

  • Tradition. Many of the brewers in the Rochester region come from a very traditional background. Many have experience at places such as Rohrbach and CB's, Rochester's craft beer pioneers. Both places are noted for their textbook approach to beer styles. (Though it should be noted that both have begun to push stylistic boundaries recently, with varying degrees of success.) That's the way the brewers were trained. "You see these traditional caramel-forward, amber-colored, mildly hopped IPAs here," said Pat Meehan, co-brewer at Swiftwater Brewing in Rochester's South Wedge. "Even if you don’t make the next Julius (the highly regarded NE-style from Tree House Brewing), at least you should be experimenting. It would be good to see more breweries doing that." The majority of the hop flavor in NE-style IPAs comes from adding hops late in the brewing process. And the pungent, bursting aroma comes from excessive dry hopping. Maeso's attention-grabbing Mass Riot IPA features a blend of two different yeast strains (Chico and English ale yeasts), something that not many local brewers would do. "It's not really a difficult style to brew, in my opinion," Maeso said. (For the record, Maeso is a bigger fan of traditional West Coast-style IPAs. I was a bigger fan of his hoppy amber ale. And Maeso is most excited to brew a pilsner, once PCB gets its new fermenters in place.) But Prison City did sell out of a 5-barrel batch of Mass Riot last month in less than six hours.
  • Ingredients and materials. NE-style IPAs are expensive to produce, and most small breweries here don't have the lab equipment necessary to pitch the proper yeast strains. And these NE-style IPAs require an obscene amount of hops, most of which are very difficult to come by. This is especially true if a brewery didn't have the foresight to secure these hops with contracts from growers, who often want multi-year commitments to yearly hop yields. The style usually features 6 or more pounds of hops per barrel. "I have a couple of beers a year that I just go nuts on, with an unjustifiable cost," said Three Huskies owner/brewer Justin Henderson. "I am going to try to bring the first 100 percent New England-style beer to the Rochester market, because it’s a challenge to myself. Can I make something on that level? Because those guys (in Massachusetts and the rest of New England) are on another level with that style of beer right now."
  • Shelf stability/longevity. Freshness is a huge hurdle and concern with NE-style IPAs. After about 30 days, the beers are a shell of their former selves. They need to be consumed fresh. The "East Coast titans of hops," as Meehan dubbed them, have a production and distribution plan in place that allows them to ensure freshness. All of these breweries, with the exception of Hill Farmstead, can their beers. They also sell the majority of their beers directly at the brewery. People line up for beers that were often canned that same day. "If you drink it at weeks old, it’s still a nice beer, but it’s just on par with what everyone else is making," said Meehan. "Within that first week or two, it’s blow-your-mind phenomenal. It’s intentionally designed to fall off fast and it does. It’s still a decent beer, but it’s not going to be world-class." The vast majority of Rochester breweries, many of which are in their infancy, don't package for off-site consumption. This, however, will change.

"I think breweries are not just focusing on making something better, they’re focusing on making something different," Meehan said. "That’s what beer fans are chasing. People go crazy over an IPA if it has no bitterness and tastes like pineapple. I think that's a great challenge as a brewer."

"I think Rochester breweries are headed in that direction. But I think brewers don’t like to change too much, too fast," added Swiftwater owner/brewer Andy Cook. "With New England-style IPAs, there’s a big question about what really makes a good one. Is it the choice of yeast? Is it the yeast in suspension? Is it the adjuncts, like flaked oat or wheat, added to the grain bill? Is it the hopping levels? Is it the level of whirlpool hops? Or is it the level of dry hopping? I think there are a lot of moving parts to figure out before we really start nailing it."


Beer talk: Iron Tug Brewery looks to turn local tide

It's worth pointing out that many beer consumers drink with their eyes. As Cook noted, they associate hazy with juicy. Some breweries like Brockport's Stoneyard produce exceedingly juicy beers. But head brewer Jeff "Oz" Osborne is not a fan of haze, especially when it's produced by yeast left in suspension and when it settles while he's drinking the beer.

There are a few local beers that come close to NE-style. Swiftwater's IPA 9 is the closest locally produced example. Roc Brewing's Citra Pale Ale relies on many of the hallmarks of the style. And Triphammer Bierwerks, which recently opened in Fairport, has a very juicy, slightly cloudy IPA. Prison City nails the style best. And Chemung County's Upstate Brewing has garnered quite a bit of buzz with its Double IPA and 2016 Ale, both of which fit squarely in the NE-style.


It would be a very interesting experiment to sit a panel of beer nerds and have them consume different styles of IPAs from opaque glasses. I wonder what the reactions would be when they finally laid eyes on the beer they were drinking blindly.

Maeso doesn't think this style is a fad. I agree. It's only gaining momentum. Joe McBane, the co-owner of the Tap and Mallet bar in Rochester's South Wedge, is the biggest local proponent for NE-style IPAs. He's seen the local fervor firsthand. He will post on Facebook when his bar will tap a keg of a NE-style (usually a beer from Grimm or from the Hudson Valley) and it will kick within a few hours. A more traditional IPA doesn't move, he said.

"As a business owner, I find it puzzling that there are huge, vocal parts of the craft beer customer community that are screaming out for this and it's not made here," he said. "They are actively driving hundreds and hundreds of miles regularly to get these beers, and they are not a style that's being produced on their own doorstep. Why this style wouldn't at least be in the portfolio of local breweries, I don't know."


Swing on in: Victor's Stumblin' Monkey Brewery opens

McBane, who gained his insight as the beer manager at the Old Toad before opening Tap and Mallet almost 10 years ago, said this is an evolution of the style.

"Let's not worry that we need to invent a new thing," he said. "This happens organically. None of us have a crystal ball. We'd all be millionaires if we did. Breweries should look for the void in the market. Local breweries should make the beer that people want to drink. I would love to sell more beer that's made in a 15- or 20-mile radius, but I sell the beer that people want to drink."


Exclusive: CEO of Genesee's parent company opens up

First and current loves

Owner/Brewer at Swiftwater Brewing

Andy Cook, owner brewer at Rochester's Swiftwater Brewing (Photo: Will Cleveland/@WillCleveland13/Staff photographer)

Gateway IPA: Ithaca Brewing's Flower Power. "That was the first IPA I really fell in love with."

IPA he would most love to have in his glass at this moment: I really like some of the the stuff that Roc is doing.

Upstate sales representative at Lagunitas Brewing

Deron Weet, upstate sales rep for Lagunitas Brewing (Photo: Will Cleveland/@WillCleveland13/Staff photographer)

Gateway IPA: Points to four craft classics — Lagunitas IPA, Southern Tier IPA, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA.

IPA he would most love to have in his glass at this moment: Hill Farmstead (Vermont) Abner imperial pale ale. Weet said it nails every aspect of what he likes in the style, including lower bitterness, huge hop aroma/flavor, and a creamy mouthfeel.

Brewer at Swiftwater Brewing

Pat Meehan, brewer at Swiftwater Brewing (Photo: Will Cleveland/@WillCleveland13/Staff photographer)

Gateway IPA: Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. "I'm not a huge hop head, but I like hop aroma and flavor. Fresh Squeezed is maybe a little bit more bitter than the stuff we're doing, but it has great hop presence when it's fresh."

IPA he would most love to have in his glass at this moment: "I really love what Night Shift (from the Boston area) is doing a lot. I think they are underrated when compared to Tree House and Trillium." He points to Night Shift's rotating IPA series Morph as one of his favorites.

Jeff "Oz" Osborne

Head brewer at Brockport's Stoneyard Brewing

Jeff "Oz" Osborne, head brewer at Brockport's Stoneyard Brewing (Photo: Will Cleveland/@WillCleveland13/Staff photographer)

Gateway IPA: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. "It was delicious and available, especially 10 years ago. If you get it fresh, it's amazing."

IPA he would most love to have in his glass at this moment: Sloop Juice Bomb. "It epitomizes what I like in IPAs, with a little bit of bitterness and some nice hoppy notes. It's not just straight juice. It's got a nice hop complexity to it."

Justin Henderson

Owner/brewer at Canandaigua's Three Huskies Brewing

Justin Henderson, owner/brewer at Canandaigua's Three Huskies Brewing (Photo: Provided)

Gateway IPA: Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA. "That beer told me that you can make a really flavorful hoppy beer and it doesn't have to taste like you bit into a little tree." (West Coast IPAs are noted for their piney hop characteristic.)

IPA he would most love to have in his glass at this moment: The one that is really wowing me right now is Focal Banger (from the Alchemist in Vermont). That sets the standard for one of the best hoppy beers on the market."

Head brewer at Auburn's Prison City Brewery

Ben Maeso, head brewer at Auburn's Prison City Brewing (Photo: Provided)

Gateway IPA: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Ithaca Flower Power. "Over 10 years ago, I remember having Flower Power for the first time and I was like, 'Holy crap.' It was super floral, citrusy, unlike any beer I had ever had at the time. I was like, 'Wow, this is what hops taste like.'"

IPA he'd most like to see in his glass right now: "My goal is to make something close to Russian River's Blind Pig IPA," Maeso said. "It doesn't get better than that beer, when it's fresh. It's just so clean and the hop expression is perfect."

Co-owner of Rochester's Tap and Mallet bar

Joe McBane, co-owner of Rochester's Tap and Mallet bar (Photo: Will Cleveland/@WillCleveland13/Staff photographer)

Gateway IPA: "Standing on top of the hill at Hill Farmstead a number of years ago, and I had been drinking IPAs for a long time, but in that setting with Double Galaxy imperial IPA, I was struck by how this is something quite different than what I've had before."

IPA he'd most like to see in his glass right now: With a huge grin on his face, "I want to serve something that's as good as Double Galaxy and it's made within 50 miles of Rochester."

A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year and sells 75 percent or more of its beer off-site. Microbreweries sell to the public by one or more of the following methods: the traditional three-tier system (brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer) the two-tier system (brewer acting as wholesaler to retailer to consumer) and directly to the consumer through carry-outs and/or on-site taproom or restaurant sales.

A restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on-site and operates significant food services. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar, and is often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer to-go and/or distribute to off-site accounts.

Alcohol in Craft Beers

The average craft beer contains 5.7% alcohol by volume (ABV), Gatz says. By comparison, most mainstream beers have an alcohol volume ranging from 4% to 5%.

But just as they come in all sorts of styles, craft beers vary dramatically in alcohol levels. A tart, refreshing Berliner Weisse may have an ABV of 3.5%, while an imperial IPA’s could be as high as 10%. Some can be higher, but it’s rare.

“It’s almost like two mainstream beers to one imperial IPA,” says White, a spokesman for the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition.


Lower alcohol examples of craft beer are out there. Radlers, for example, clock in around 3%. And so-called "session" beers have alcohol in amounts similar to mainstream American lagers and light beers. Don’t let the lower alcohol content give you license to drink more that you should, though.

Drinking in excess ups your immediate and long term health risks -- think drunk-driving accidents and alcoholism, respectively -- so moderation with high-alcohol beers is crucial.

For that reason, it’s important to know the alcohol content before you drink. Often, the can or bottle will note a beer’s alcohol volume. If it doesn’t, look up the drink in question on the Internet. If you’re drinking beer on tap at a bar, you also can ask your server.


“It doesn’t take a lot to build up a tolerance or develop an alcohol dependence,” says Scott Krakower, DO, a psychiatrist and substance abuse specialist at Zucker Hillside Hospital. “And overindulging negates the nutritional content of beer.”


If the beers you like measure higher than 5% alcohol, White recommends that you limit yourself to one every couple of days because of the alcohol and calories. And be sure to stay hydrated, he says.

“Drink a glass of water with every beer, and go slowly,” White says. “Your liver needs time to filter the alcohol.”

With their complex flavors, craft beers encourage drinkers to sip and savor, and Gatz says most people drink one to two craft beers rather than two to three mainstream beers in a given evening. But you should set limits before you start.

“Be mindful that many of these beers have double the alcohol content of what you’re used to,” Krakower says.

How Artificial Intelligence Is Used To Make Beer

There are many ways artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can make our world more productive and effective. There are even breweries that are using AI to enhance beer production. Is this brilliant or unbelievable? While it’s admittedly too soon to tell, using data to inform brewmasters’ decisions and the possibility of personalized brews makes AI-brewed beer definitely intriguing.

How Artificial Intelligence Is Used To Make Beer

Beer Brewed by Artificial Intelligence

Since brewing beer is an art and a science, artificial intelligence offers a powerful helping hand in the latter. After talking about how multinational breweries used data to inform their advertising decisions, Hew Leith and Rob McInerney, founders of IntelligentX, believed a better way to use data was to improve the beer itself. So, that’s what they decided to do. IntelligentX has the distinction of creating the world’s first beer that used AI algorithms and machine learning to help adjust its recipe.

IntelligentX creates four different varieties of beer—Black AI, Golden AI, Pale AI, and Amber AI. They ask customers to follow the URL link provided on the bottles to give their feedback through the Facebook Messenger app about the beer they try. By answering a series of 10 questions, the 80 percent of customers who have followed the link have given the company more than 100,000 data points.

This data is processed by an AI algorithm, and then the brewer decides whether or not to heed the algorithm's advice. Instead of replacing a brewmaster, Leith and McInerney believe AI gives insights to help a brewmaster be better equipped to make decisions based on customer feedback. Ultimately, once the company is able to scale, it could be possible to order a beer based on a recipe customized to your preferences.

Carlsberg’s Beer Fingerprinting Project

Carlsberg, a Copenhagen-based brewery, began a multimillion-dollar three-year Beer Fingerprinting Project in partnership with Microsoft, Aarhus University and the Technical University of Denmark. Each day, they create 1,000 different beer samples and hope the Beer Fingerprinting Project will change the way new beers are created. The project uses sensors that can determine the flavor fingerprint of each sample and analyze different yeasts. The data is collected by an AI system, and it is ultimately expected that new brews will be developed from the information. Not only does the system allow products to get to market faster it can also help ensure the highest quality.

The Perfect IPA

Another brewer, this one in Virginia, uses machine learning to develop the perfect IPA. Champion Brewing company teamed up with machine learning company Metis Machine in an effort to brew their new ML IPA (yes, the ML stands for machine learning). The first step in the process was to input information about the ten best-selling IPAs nationally as well as data on the ten worst-selling brands. Then, based on the data, the algorithm determined the best recipe to become the nation's best IPA.

Data was also leaned on in another AI-beer brewing endeavor. This experiment combined publicly available Brewdog beer recipes and beer ratings from Untapped to create and train an artificial neural beer network. The network would then be used to evaluate new beer recipes and determine which ones were more likely to get high ratings. This experiment concluded that AI could be a powerful tool to help a human brewer develop new beers or optimize existing ones, but wouldn’t take the place of humans.

Robotic Barkeep

It turns out the foam on a freshly poured beer affects people's enjoyment of it. To determine what makes a perfect foam, an Australian research team created RoboBEER, a robot who can pour a beer with such precision to create consistent foam pour after pour. The researchers created a video of RoboBEER pouring a beer and tracked the bubble size, beer color, and other attributes and then showed the video to research participants and asked for participant feedback regarding their thoughts on the clarity and quality of the beer. The researchers also taped their reaction as they watched RoboBEER pour. An AI machine analyzed the biometric factors recorded from the research participants as they watched the video. There were 28 pieces of RoboBEER and biometric data for each viewer that were fed to a neural network to determine what they thought about the beer without having them actually taste the beer or complete a lengthy questionnaire. The neural network was able to predict within 80 percent accuracy whether someone liked a beer's foam height. The team also found that they could predict with 90 percent accuracy a beer's likability just using the RoboBEER data.

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