What’s Cool Now
Sarah Theodore  

Remember when hanging out with a beer was passé and high-priced cocktails were all the rage? That was so last year. According to a new survey released by the Zandl Group, trend-setting twentysomethings are eschewing the atmosphere of large nightclubs with high cover charges and even pricier drink lists in favor of laid-back local bars with beer specials. Also considered cool are the extended happy hour (as opposed to late-night clubbing), game and trivia nights (as opposed to dance floors), and “cringe” poetry readings (dig out your teenage diary). Low-key camaraderie is the preference of the day, according to the Zandl Group, which considers itself a “consumer insights expert and trend forecaster.”
It was only this time last year, during the 2006 Super Bowl broadcast, that Anheuser-Busch rolled out its “Here’s to beer” campaign, seeking to remind consumers that beer doesn’t “carry the pretense” of other alcohol drinks, and highlighting the social value of beer and the art of brewing.
The latest beer wholesaler survey conducted by Citigroup Wall Street analyst Bonnie Herzog indicates that nearly three-quarters of respondents believe the image of beer is on its way up and credit the “Here’s to beer” campaign for the renewed interest. Even more than that, 88 percent, say that the major brewers overall are doing more to improve beer’s image and that the image of beer is strengthening.
Rarely does one year mark a significant shift in consumer attitudes, and the Zandl Group report points to one important trend that still should have brewers on edge. Wine is appealing to more twentysomethings, it says. Young adults are collecting wine at home and ordering it more when they are out. And wine bars — which usually fit the criteria of local and low-key — are popping up all over the country. In addition, beer industry growth is still centered around craft beers and imports, not mainstream brands.
The beer industry has spent the better part of the past year working to make beer appear more upscale and sophisticated. At last year’s Nightclub and Bar show in Las Vegas, SABMiller Americas President and Chief Executive Officer Norman Adami (then head of Miller Brewing Co.) told attendees that years of advertising using male-oriented base humor had made beer the “official drink of the knucklehead.” That’s not an image that goes away overnight. Then again, given how fast trends move in and out of vogue, maybe it is. The atmosphere among those in the industry this year appears to be more upbeat. And if the Zandl survey is right, the consumers who set the trends for the rest of us are spending their downtime in places and activities that play to beer’s strengths, giving it a leg up for the year to come.
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