Old Brews Become Cool to Young Drinkers
Twenty-somethings are turning to beers their grandparents drank in an effort to be “cool.”
A line of taps pouring elegant brews from Bass to Blue Moon beckon twentysomethings packed into Bomber’s bar. But 21-year-old Elliot Cunniff orders something homier for himself and a friend. “Two Yuenglings,” he tells the bartender, explaining the attraction after a sip from his pint glass. “Price. Color. Flavor,” he says. “And the name alone, ‘ying-ling.'”
Cunniff doesn’t come out and say it, but it becomes apparent as other Yuengling orders roll in: Old school brews are cool. Just as young consumers might wear `70s-look sneakers, sip `50s cocktails or download `80s hair band tunes, many are bellying up to the bar for the beers Grandpa drank Ã¢€” maybe a Rheingold, a Leinenkugel’s, or a Utica Club. They’re sometimes called “retro beers,” brands that might bring to mind old men in ribbed undershirts, and which are now finding a new audience with the young. It worked for Pabst Blue Ribbon and now others are playing the same nostalgic chords.
Getting new life from an old brand is a great deal for brewers because they avoid the cost of launching a new product. The trick is doing it right. Heavy-handed advertising can backfire. Word of mouth seems to work. Television commercials with the Swedish bikini team are a big no-no. “That’s the whole point of the retro thing, I think,” said Eric Shepard of Beer Marketer’s Insights. “The harder you try to push it, the more skeptical people are going to get.”
These are not the happiest days for brewers. Sales are growing slowly and beer is losing ground to spirits as consumers turn more to mixed drinks. Beer’s market share dropped from 56 percent in 1999 to 52.9 percent last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Among the recent bright spots was the quirky story of Pabst, which caught on early this decade with young hipsters in Portland, Ore., and its popularity spread out. Without initial prompting, “PBR” became a symbol of authenticity and cool. It has been enjoying double-digit growth every year since 2003, said Pabst brand manager Neal Stewart.
Interesting. Things definitely go in cycles. I’d never heard of Yuengling until a visit to Philadelphia a couple years back. It’s one of my staples these days. This is the first I’ve heard of it being “hip,” however.
See also R’s “A Word on Beer.”
crossposted to small dead animals