Lagunitas’ Grant Caunter: Where’s the craft beer market going?

Adrian Tierney-Jones

Adrian Tierney-Jones

11 July 2019

Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewing Company has announced plans for international expansion over the next year, including intentions to open multiple ‘TapRooms’ across the world (there is currently one in Amsterdam), starting with locations in Paris, Barcelona, São Paulo, and London.

British beer-lovers will also see the brewery’s widely available IPA joined by other Lagunitas brews including low-alcohol DayTime IPA, SuperCluster IPA, and Hoppy Refresher, a dry-hopped sparkling water. Heineken’s global manager of craft and variety Grant Caunter offers his thoughts on where the craft beer market is going and how Lagunitas and Heineken fit into it.

How do you see the craft beer market?

We have identified four different drinker types across the world: the craft aficionado – the person who wants something new every day – believes small is great; then there are the experimenters, who have decided that beer is their category, and they say they only drink craft beer, but when you look at their shopping receipts they are also drinking plenty of Heineken; trend riders are looking for what is new; while the big bulk are the safe adventurers, who are basically lager drinkers just starting on their journey in drinking differently. So with these four groups we tried to figure out where the craft movement is heading.

What trends are you seeing?

There are also always going to be pockets of craft aficionados who are totally into new and different beers. What is interesting with the other groups is that there are three routes to drinking differently: wheat beer, Belgian ale and hop forward.

Everywhere in the world these groups will go by one of those routes and, as palates change, people enjoy more complexity of flavour and then you start to see for example the idea of 5.5% as an everyday pint being normal.

It wasn’t like that 10 years ago. However, the majority of drinkers aren’t going to stomach 7% beers, but they are prepared to go on a bit of a taste journey as long as it is not too confronting.

Grant Caunter
Grant Caunter

Given the variety of different beers emerging, I wonder if beer styles have had their day?

What we try and do with our styles, especially for those safe adventurers and trend drivers, is we cannot make them complicated.

IPA is almost a signal for a different tasting beer and that is why we think it is a platform for a lot of innovation such as session IPA.

If I look at say IPA, wheat and Belgian ale, that counts for 70% for all the styles, depending on the audience. So styles are still important.

How important is the UK market for Lagunitas?

The UK was one of the first markets that Lagunitas and so it remains very important. If I look at what beer drinkers looking for something different in the Netherlands like, you have quite hoppy pilsners and a lot of Belgian ale.

The new style on the block is the hop-forward beer and the interesting thing here is that there is no bias to abv unlike in the UK, where that shift to drinking differently via hop-forward beers is much more pronounced.

The only difference is the UK’s pint culture. You are not going to expect people to have three pints of the 6.2% Lagunitas IPA, which is why its abv was lowered to 5.5% just for the UK, because of the pint culture.

How important is the low-alcohol beer market?

It is mind boggling that so many people are drinking 0.0% beers such as Heineken’s now than would have been thought possible five years ago.

Their reasons are that they are not doing it because of moderation, or anything like that, but because it’s a beer that they like to drink.

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