Is it time to call time on craft breweries?

The past few years has seen something of a revolution going on down the pub and in the supermarket aisles. Just like provincial cheeses, meats, chutneys and puds, craft beers have developed loyalty from ties to local communities.

Breweries have been refreshing, reviving and reinventing the world of beer through both innovation and acquisition. Aspiring brewers have been messing around in the garden shed with their own recipes and coming up with more hoppy, floral and citric alternatives to the big boys, with some backyard brewers becoming serious brands in their own right.

Some have been so successful, they have scared the hell out of big brewing companies who have either reacted by creating their own craft beers such as Guinness and Greene King, or have just acquired the newcomers. Recent examples being AB InBev’s acquisition of Camden Town Brewery and SAB Miller’s purchase of Meantime.

But as a result, has claiming ‘craft’ status become useless? What does it actually mean in today’s context?

The majority are claiming an authentic brand story and adopting traditional visual nuances, which was all very novel at the turn of the decade but is now just tired, boring and lazy. Beer has become a blur.


Alcohol consumption in general is falling. Consumers are simply not drinking as much, not going out as much and are keen to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. This is particularly apparent in younger adults who also have a ‘goody-two-shoes’ attitude to drinking, as a recent NHS study highlighted that alcohol abuse is down. Additionally, according to research published by Heineken, consumers also worry about suffering from social media shaming (a phenomenon in which users abuse a person for an incriminating photo posted of them online).


Drinkers are moving away from pints and widening their drinking repertoire, which has seen a rise in spirits and cocktail consumption. An adoption of Mad Men-style drinking trends and European aperitivo culture is part of this shift in drinking habits. Guys now see it as acceptable to order a round of Old Fashioneds instead of a round of lagers. The days of quantity-over-quality happy hours are dead as millennials in particular are happy to pay more for a better product or experience and simply consume less to fit their pockets.


Brands are always under pressure to find new ways to innovate and break away from the norm. They should be thinking in terms of not just the product, but also the occasion and purpose. Recent successful examples include the Barbell Brew – a protein-rich beer created by sports nutrition company Muscle Food, which builds off the back of trends in wellness; and Amsterdam have launched the pocket-sized can, The Amsterdam Navigator Beer Shot.

At A Little Bird, we believe that whatever tactics brands decide to adopt to engage audiences in this blurred sector, they need to rethink their approach to their brand personality. They need to lose the fat and remember their logic and magic.

In the past, brands have generally focused on their product USP. Then it was all about consumer targeting. Now it’s all about interaction, relationships and experiences.

Today’s modern world needs to communicate to futuresavvy audiences. To succeed in this we think brands need to become more like people. They need to interact and engage by enabling, entertaining, socialising and storytelling. To stay relevant, they still need depth of character or a unique feature, but they need to stop talking just about their heritage and authenticity. No one cares anymore!

The beer sector has many identical traits so genuine stand-out isn’t easy. It’s no wonder many struggle to keep communications fresh and interesting. Remove their logos and their brand worlds are often indistinguishable – and that means many missed opportunities for effective brand building across a brand’s ecosystem.