Maybe I just have beer on the brain this month, but I feel like the popular alcohol beverage is everywhere I turn. For instance, when I was listening to the Crosstalk Hour on Chicago-based WMVP 1000 AM, which features the radio personalities from the Carmen and Jurko show and the Waddle and Silvy show, Tom Waddle expressed how he sometimes gets overwhelmed by the number of beers from which he can choose at bars and restaurants. Not too soon after that, an episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice” asked the remaining contestants to come up with jingle for Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light Lime Ritas portfolio.

Although beer references in pop culture are nothing new, it is exciting to see the impact they are having on the consumer marketplace as well as how consumer embracement is fueling the category. According to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), beer sales increased 3.7 percent totaling more than $31.7 billion dollars during the 52 weeks ending Dec. 28, 2014, in U.S. multi-outlets including supermarkets, drug stores, mass merchandisers, gas and convenience stores, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains. Case sales also were up 1.2 percent during that time period, the market research firm reports.

Across the beer category’s segments, performance did vary. Hard cider sales, for example, increased nearly 73 percent but came from a significantly smaller base ($378 million) compared with the more established domestic beer segment. Domestic premium was flat while domestic sub-premium was down 2.5 percent and domestic super-premium was up 9.2 percent, based on IRI data. The craft beer segment continues to post strong numbers, being up 20.5 percent but also from a smaller base ($2.3 billion) than the mainstream domestics.

Among the ways we are seeing craft beer brands increase their exposure is through the opening of second brewing facilities. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. completes its fourth and final stage of its Mills River, N.C.-based brewery in 2015; New Belgium Brewing Co. announced in February that it is on schedule to be brewing at its newly constructed facility in Asheville, N.C., by the end of this year; and our cover story feature (page 36) on Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s Chicago facility details how the approximately 1-year-old brewery already is installing new equipment to increase its brewing capacity.

Calling the new equipment its Christmas present, Karen Hamilton, regional marketing manager east of the Rockies for Lagunitas, notes that the brewery is excited for the additional equipment but isn’t in the same hurry as it was to open the facility, which was completed in 11 months.

 Lagunitas also will be making an appearance at The Beverage Forum this year. Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas Brewing Co., will join the “Emerging Brands: Keys to Success” panel at the beverage conference. Magee joins a number of beverage executives and industry authorities who will present at the conference, which takes place April 21-22 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago. Visit to see who else will be presenting, and if you register by April 3, you can take advantage of additional savings.