Founders, Night Shift, and other craft breweries are rolling out new, easy-drinking beers, which means 15-packs of craft Lager are starting to appear all over the country. This week, we asked the Fervent Few if they think craft is ready to fight the macros on their own turf, whether a 12-pack of Pilsner would make them reconsider buying IPA, and what—if anything—makes these beers appealing.
Stephen Stitt: “Everyone has their reasons for being attracted to ‘craft’ or whatever name you want to call it, but personally I was grabbed by the idea of independent businesses conducting themselves ethically with a focus on quality and an ability to engage with their customers on a more direct level.
As for styles, personally I don’t care what a brewery makes as long as it’s good and, hey, if I’m not in the mood for one particular style, I’m not short of options about where else to go. Though I would say I like using Lagers in tastings because it’s a great way of saying to folks who only drink mainstream Lagers, ‘The type of beer you like isn’t crap, but the companies you’re buying from might be the problem.’ Generally, there’s a really good reaction to it.”
Zack Rothman: “I’m for having the option. If it’s more flavorful than typical macro offerings while at a lower price than typical craft offerings, I think it’s a good idea. Sometimes you want a light beer you can easily share with friends and family of all tastes. They can also be great gateway beers for people to experience more of what craft beer can be.”
C. Sean West: “I feel like the point of craft beer is the choice of more than one style. I'm all for craft Light Lagers, independent breweries matter to me, but put them where they belong with the other Light Lagers. Don't take up any space that other beer styles now occupy.”
Lana Svitankova: “If the beer is good, it's good. Basically, craft was not about to shy away from Lager, but from bland and tasteless sameness. But I'd never buy a 15-pack, not only because the format of packs is completely alien to me, but because I don't have one style (not to mention brand) that I love enough to have constant supply in the fridge. And come on, you can't put a 15-pack in fridge to begin with! (And you should keep beer in fridge.)”
Carla Jean Lauter: “People shot me down when I said this on Twitter, but I'm seriously concerned about the impact on New England breweries of the Night Shift Nite Lite—especially the ones who have been trying to court blue-collar drinkers, but just can't get to that same price point as macro can offer. Even the old New England breweries (Grittys, etc.) can't offer those prices ($6.99/6-pack), and if it tastes halfway decent, it could take a chunk out of that market.”
Steve Rimington: “I don’t buy 15 of anything. Ever! But if I did, it wouldn’t be Lager!”
Johnny Swinehart: “I can't drink a DIPA or barrel-aged Stout every night, or even back to back sometimes, so Light Lagers can be a nice reprieve. I prefer a craft option if a fresh one is available, but I have no problem turning to High Life. Also, just because it is craft, does not make it good. There are a ton of awful craft Helles and Pilsners out there.”
Ross O’Neill: “Light Lagers were never really my bag, there's only so much flavor you can get into that style, and almost all the macros are over-carbed rice water. Fifteen-can packaging is more than likely going after the ‘craft’ beer drinker who has to bring the beer for post-softball game shenanigans. They probably don't mind dropping a couple extra ducats for a better liquid rather than some crap-arse blue mountains.”
Ryan Wilson: “Many of the posters have already hit the nail on the head concerning ‘craft’ Light Lagers as a gateway for non-craft consumers. I can't count how many times I have been in a taproom or tap house and hear a new visitor ask what they have that's like ‘insert macro here,’ only to hear the the server or surrounding ale-holes snicker or worse. It comes down to the brewers crafting what their customers want, and if they have had enough requests for something like this and want to brew it, more power to them.”
Threefrenchs: “Craft beer has mostly been ales because they were easier to brew and quicker to turn. Plus macros had the Light Lager market locked up. Now that we are many years into the current wave, lower ABV and lighter in body beers have been more acceptable. In addition, larger craft breweries can afford to brew and market cheaper than in the past. Firestone Walker has proved this with 805, then Pivo, and now their Lager. While I won’t buy an 18- or 24-pack, I might buy a keg. Hoppy beers are still my go-to, but the right place at the right time? A good beer is a good beer. I applaud the craft side of beer moving in this direction.”
Austin L. Ray: “When I'm in a lets-go-to-a-dive-bar-and-make-some-bad-decisions kinda mood, Light Lagers really fit the bill. And I suppose if there was a solid Georgia option when I'm out at said dive in East Atlanta, I'd choose it over High Life. But I'm honestly not sure when else I would drink a craft version of this style. I'd almost always prefer a nice Pilsner with a little more oomph. That being said, 1) I do think, as others have stated, that this move could be a good opportunity for these smaller breweries to try and pull in new drinkers, and 2) I'm wonder if some of these smaller breweries are underestimating all the complexities that come with trying to take on the conglomerates in the Big Beer aisle. I guess we'll see how it plays out!”
Mike McCarty: “I'm not not into the idea of craft breweries producing Light Lagers, but I'm also not sure how much it'll move the needle on my beer choices. I think the biggest factor for me will be the price point. I don't expect them to be as cheap as a macro, but if it goes for prices similar to other craft choices, I don't anticipate it butting into my macro consumption.”
Manny Gumina: “I recently had a few Ale Asylum 12-oz. Curls. Honestly, I enjoy Pabst Blue Ribbon more. On the other hand, Good City Pils knocks PBR out of the water. I wouldn't think twice about buying a 15-pack of that.
I haven't dug into many of the craft Light Lager offerings, however. It's a case by case basis. I've gotten a lot of utility out of the Founders All Day 15-packs. The packaging size, beer type, and competitive priority don't bother me as long as the beer is competent.”
Chase Brooks: “For many consumers, ‘craft beer’ is somewhat synonymous with ‘local beer.’ It’s not all about the quality of the liquid or the style of liquid for many people—it’s about supporting small(er) local and regional businesses instead of publicly traded behemoths. If a solid group of consumers subscribes to the notion that supporting those businesses is important (they do), and many of those same consumers regularly drink Light Lager (they do), then craft brewers making those products seems like a home run.”
Tait Forman: “From a bar programming perspective, I think it's great to have smaller companies create quality Lagers and Pilsners. I think there are certainly merits to brands like High Life, but I find it to be a bit of a miss to stock local and craft beers and then decide that for a Lager/Pils you have to go with a macro. And there are some fantastic craft breweries doing great Lagers and Pilsners. Also, for a shot and a beer, I don't want an 8% Hazy IPA, I want a clean, crisp beer. For us, we have Smog City's Little Bo Pills on and it's such a perfect companion for everything we serve in the bar.”
Robbie Wendeborn: “I think it's pretty dumb that craft brewers haven't done this before. Light Lager beer is the largest style category by volume in the world. Whether it's Mexican Lagers, Asian Lagers, Light Lagers, or Pilsners, craft has a place. The best craft brewers will make objectively better beer than any of the macros.”
Suzanne Schalow: “The on- and off-premise retail perspective seems mixed, but it’s up to us to talk to customers about these beers and invite ‘sample before buying.’ Some breweries have already executed better on packaging and the overall character and flavor of the beers. We’ll see more enter the race and some won’t make it, because they’re just not loved, which can already be said for some of the Mexican Lagers. This is an enormous opportunity for craft beer to hit consumers with a more mainstream beer that’s similar to mass-produced Lagers in quality and value, which is where we have an opportunity to bring them over. We live in a good beer bubble in our small beer communities all around the world. We must remember that the majority of people drinking beer are still drinking these styles. I embrace these beers for what they are and take the opportunity to continue the conversation!”
Patrick Wagner: “I don't think I'm the market here. I'm firmly in ‘rotation nation’ right now, chasing unicorns. The last 12-pack I bought was for a holiday party in December and I still have six left. I mostly buy 4-pack cans directly from taprooms (for trades) or singles from retailers or 750s to share. It's really rare I buy a 6+ pack of anything.”
Jim Doolittle: “I'm not in the market for a 15-pack. I like variety in my fridge, usually multiple different six-packs of hoppy stuff, something darker, and some cider. I'm all for craft Light Lager. Go win new customers, craft brewers! But I'd buy a 15-pack of Lager maybe once a year for a picnic or something. Locally, Revolution has had Cross of Gold in 15s for a year now, and I've never bought it, and I'm a huge Revolution fan. Just not the beer I want to drink.”
Michael Graham: “Large format packaging options not only get more retail shelf space for a particular brand, they take up valuable fridge space for the consumer. There's only so much an individual is able to store, whether it's at home, a backyard BBQ, camping trip, etc. If they buy your 15-pack instead of 6-pack, that's nine less competitor's beers they're able to have.”
Nick Naretto: “I look at the craft Light Lager as a great gateway beer for people who might not have experienced craft beer yet. The beer style and packaging aren’t intimidating to customers because it’s closer to the macro beer they already drink and will serve as an introduction to a craft brewery. Craft Light Lagers aren’t necessarily something that I am going to buy unless they offer a unique approach to the style. I have no problems with keeping some macro beer in my fridge, but the majority of it is typically stocked with craft beer. When I have a weekend away planned, I’ll usually show up to the party with something like the mixed 15-pack that Southern Tier has in one hand and, in the other, a 12-pack of Miller High Life. I like great beer that fits whatever drinking occasion I might be getting into. As a native Pennsylvanian, I don’t have any issues with 15-packs. Until recent years, you could only easily buy 24-packs, so some people here might even think 15 isn’t enough. I’m not saying I won’t purchase or drink some craft Light Lagers, but I don’t think I’ll be grabbing a 15-pack to replace macro Light Lagers any time soon.”
John Leger: “Craft beer can be and should be bigger than any one person's or group of persons' preference in style. I'd love to see some craft breweries create better, more flavorful Light Lagers and take a hold of some market share in that arena. I'm not certain I'd drink much of it, but I definitely think there is a market for it. With growth in independent beer sales starting to plateau, the natural next target is that huge piece of the pie drinking macro Lagers.”
Jake Rajewsky: “The most likely scenario for me to buy a 15-pack of light craft beer is if I’m having a party and I know non-craft beer lovers are coming over, which is maybe once a year.
Otherwise, if I’m looking for something light and clean, I’ll grab an imported or local Lager.
I have my doubts about who these are being marketed at. Will people defend Founders Solid Gold against NB Dayblazer like Coors Light junkies swear it’s better than Miller Lite? I doubt it. Hopefully it helps gain craft fans, but I’m not totally sure it’ll make much of a dent.”
Mitchell Royea: “Currently living in Germany, the land of Lagers, and I cannot get enough of the Zwickels and Helles. I am all for and understand a need to cut in the macro brewery sales of Light Lagers if we want to compete, but I feel there are better ways of doing it. Why does everyone need to make a light corn-based Lager? I think session beers have a time and place, but why is there not more variety in our session beers being mass-produced? When is someone going to make a 15-pack of Mild or Grisette?”
John Conner: “While I can understand from a business perspective why some craft breweries are making Light Lagers, I also believe that the production of these beers flies in the face of what made the craft beer movement possible. Not that long ago, beer was seen as a single entity, a commodity that was meant to be cheap, flavorless, and consumed primarily for the sole purpose of getting intoxicated. Unlike wine, it had no respect in the world of esoteric food and drink, and rightfully so. Craft beer began with individuals and breweries challenging the notion of what beer was, and through a movement of people seeking out better quality and more flavor, the craft beer world was able to provide us with styles, flavors, and tastes that have changed the way that so many people think about the drink. There's a reason that the overall beer industry is down and the craft category has grown. Simply put, many people are tired of drinking stuff that is flavorless and offensive to the palate. There will certainly be enough people that will always seek out Light Lagers from big producers, and I have no issue with anyone who isn't into craft beer. Much like anything that is artisanal and niche, it's not for everyone, and that's ok. But craft beer exists precisely because there was a demand for something better, and the breweries that are going back to Light Lagers simply for profit should think about what got them there in the first place.”
William Weber: “Craft versions of classic, highly refreshing styles like Pilsner and Kölsch? Yes, please! Craft versions of bastardized versions of those styles? No thanks.”
Brad Fattlar: “I think it is good to have focus on all styles within the craft movement. I love my IPA and sours, but there’s definitely a place for a good, light, easy-to-drink Lager. It's important people understand that Lagers and Pilsner can be truly great beer showing the true spectrum of beer.”