Beer Drinkers More Experimental Than Wine Drinkers?

winebeerAre beer enthusiasts more experimental with their alcohol consumption than wine enthusiasts? It may seem like an academic question but not for spirit producers or cider producers. For these two category of drinks the answer to the questions would dictate at which kind of drinker they would aim their marketing.

One answer to this question—a definitive one—came from an article detailing the sharp rise in hard cider sales and the impressive growth by one Washington cidery, Tieton Cider Works. Consider…

“While the production of cider is similar to wine, craft beer drinkers are embracing the product…’When you’re a wine drinker, (you) tend to drink a particular type of wine….Deviating to something like cider is not done. Beer drinkers, on the other hand, are open to exploring.’ “

Needless to say, I disagree with this. I’m not a beer drinker. Even in my younger days when alcohol consumption usually boiled down to what was easiest to get, I made an effort to find Jack Daniels rather than beer. The taste just generally doesn’t appeal to me and never has.

Last Saturday I co-hosted a cider seminar in Sonoma County where we put five very different craft ciders in front of a crowd of people and evaluated them the same way we would wine: Appearance, aroma, body, flavor, finish. It was a fascinating even that was held at Tilted Shed Ciderworks‘ new tasting room. You’d swear that we were at a wine tasting.

But despite these personal anecdotes, it doesn’t answer the question as to whether or not beer or wine enthusiasts are more ecumenical in their drinking.

What’s interesting about the world of hard cider is that you can tell how a cidery answers this question by looking at how they bottle their product. Those who are looking to beer drinkers to attract will bottle their ciders like beer. Those cider producers who think wine lovers are more likely to appreciate their product will bottle their ciders in 750 ml. bottles or champagne-style bottles. I’ve now tasted and reviewed almost 100 ciders at The Cider Journal and though I’ve not tallied it up, I’d bet I found those bottled like wine more appealing to my palate. I wonder if I’m swayed by the bottle style.

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8 Responses

  1. Charlie Olken - October 29, 2014

    MOnday night, at a WINE tasting, one of the participants was a winemaker who also makes cider and beer. We got to talking about how quickly the beer market is moving in creating new styles, new blends, collaborations between breweries, etc.

    After some chat about whether wine will eventually go off in the multiple directions that craft beer has done, we concluded that some will but that the process will necessarily be much slower for two very good and impossible to overcome reasons.

    –Wine of the type he makes and we drink costs $20 per bottle and up with lots of $50 and up bottles. Beer costs $5 to $10 for the fanciest craft beers and as little as $2 a bottle for some very good and interesting variants from folks like Firestone and Sierra Nevada.

    –Beer experiments and variants can be made at almost any time in the year and be ready for market in weeks or months. Wine (and cider) can only be made once per year. And while cider comes to market sooner than most (not all) wines, many wines wait a year to three or four years to see the light of day.

    So, cost constraints and timing necessities mean that wine, in particular, will have a very had time mimicking the craft beer markets, and even for those who do try, it will take them longer to get there.

    Wine drinkers are not less experimental. They simply face a different set of opportunities and constraints in their ability to be experiemental.

    • Ron Rundell - October 30, 2014

      Interesting how we grew up playing beer games. Beer pong, TV show “drink when they say” games, and all the hundreds of other games played with beer throughout college.

      There was a recent article on the decline of French Wine drinkers. Average age of people really getting into their Wines is now pegged at almost 28 years old.

      Promoting Blind Wind Tasting Games and paring it with technology (IOS and Android Apps) might be a way to reach younger crowds. We are in development of such a product and would welcome your feedback. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/971375537/mingle-vine-wine-bottle-carrier-tasting-board-game

  2. Tom Wark - October 29, 2014

    Charlie,

    This is sn excellent point. It’s interesting that despite all the flavor additions we’ve seen come to the beer, cider and spirits categories, you don’t see it with wine, perhaps with the exception of Chocolate….which, by the way, has sold gangbusters from what I understand.

    Cheers,
    Tom…

  3. tom merle - October 29, 2014

    Charlie nailed it. Cost largely is the most influential variable. Oftentimes I’ll purchase a brewski at a restaurant instead of a $12 wine by the glass, plus the beer lasts the entire meal.

    • Carl - October 30, 2014

      I agree with you Tom, but see how you can eat a whole meal with one bottle. Strains the imagination!

  4. Richard Auffrey - October 29, 2014

    As an anecdote, TasteCamp was recently held in the Hudson Valley region of NY. Tastecamp is a small group of wine bloggers, aka wine lovers, & their significant others. Though we visited wineries and tasted many wines, we also visited a distillery, tasted various spirits, and sampled a number of hard ciders. I think overall, people were just as excited to try the spirits and ciders as they were the wines. I think many would also agree that the distillery visit was one of the highlights of the weekend.

  5. Alan Haghighi - October 29, 2014

    Charlies points are well taken with traditional wine, but not the case for fruit wine. Although it has a negative stereotype among consumers who fear it will be sweet, the wine can be styled as close to dry as the winemaker desires. It’s my prediction that because of the variety of fruits and the access to those fruits year around that the fruit wine market will be the next to develop and will become larger than the cider market. Especially among millennials. But what do I know, I’m just a 28 year old entrepreneur who has been living and breathing the industry for 5 years. I couldn’t possibly have my fingers on the pulse or anything.

  6. Doug - October 29, 2014

    Tom,

    I have to disagree with you. Beer producers aren’t constrained by federally mandated production standards. If they want to throw a sweet potato into their IPA, they can. This results in hundreds of new and unique “types” of beer every week. Most of them suck, but some are quite good. The beer consumer is looking for that “next new thing” or “something better” just like the wine drinker. The beer drinker just has access to more variety.


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