Beer Chat -- 11/13/15

Eno Sarris, November 13, 2015

Are there two craft beer Americas?

The reason I ask is this: there are a few analysts who use IRI data to analyze beer. IRI data comes from barcode scanners typically available at 'big box' stores like supermarkets and BevMo and the like. There's a lot of value to that data, no question. It's the big, fleshy part of the market, probably.

Except for me, personally, at least. I probably do about 20% of my shopping at those stores, at most. The smaller beer stores I frequent are not providing data to IRI. To get that data, you have to cobble together the data available from the breweries themselves, and not all of them are under the same pressure to report the most accurate numbers. Ballast Point is public, but how many others are.

Those are your Hard Core stores, maybe. Maybe they don't matter in the grand scheme of things. But most of us here shop in those stores. Or we shop right at the brewery. In either case, we aren't feeding the IRI machine. 

I ask because apparently Not Your Father's Root Beer is outselling Lagunitas IPA right now. At least, according to IRI. I've seen some dusty bottles at my store, and certainly nobody has recommended the 'beer' to me. We've mostly looked askance at the provenance of the root beer and patted it on the head here. It's not grabbing anyone here by the lapels, I don't think.  

Should we be impressed by the IRI data? Are they a leading indicator, or a lagging indicator? How do we know when the only other data is also flawed, self-reported sales numbers from breweries?

Is this the next juicy IPA? Or is this another wine cooler situation? 

The sales rep for Mission once told me that his brewery's hard root beer would change the market and I snickered. Maybe I shouldn't have. Maybe the supermarkets are leading the way here. 

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