Midday Market Minute: Are Beer Sales Tapped Out for 2013?

Memorial Day weekend. That means parades, the beach, barbecues ... and beer. Or does it?

Beer-makers were hoping 2013 would be their year after several years of steady decline in beer consumption in the U.S. But it's not turning out that way.

In fact, it's been a pretty brutal year so far. Sales continue to limp along, hurt by a string of problems -- mainly the weak economy, the cold weather, and a long-term shift in consumer preference for wine and liquor.

The volume of beer sold domestically has dropped for three straight months, compared to last year.

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Analysts say consumers are increasingly likely to uncork a bottle of wine than to pop the cap on a bottle of beer. And it's the biggest names that are suffering the most: Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), SABMiller, Molson Coors Brewing (TAP) and Heineken.

Despite the sales weakness, the stocks of the beer makers have held up pretty well.

During the past year they've outperformed the market in general. Anhueser-Busch is up 39 percent, SAB Miller shares traded in London are up 45 percent and Molson Coors, up 30 percent.

In order to boost sales, the big beer makers are pushing out more upscale and pricier brews, including fruit and margarita flavored lagers.

Anhueser-Busch also rolled out a higher alcohol content brew, Budweiser Black Crown, in January. It also offer Bud Light Platinum. Both cost about a third more than regular beers.

Anhueser-Busch controls five of the world's top six brands, including the recently acquired Corona.

If there's a bright spot in the industry, it's smaller brewers such as Boston Beer (SAM) -- which makes Samuel Adams -- and craft beers.

Boston Beer's chairman recently told analysts that he expects 800 new craft brews to debut this year. That will bring the total to more than 2,500.

According to CNNMoney, craft beer sales have grown 15 percent over the past year -- but they still account for less than 10 percent of total beer sales.

The Memorial Day weekend can account for five percent of annual beer sales. But there's rain in the forecast for many parts of the country, so the summer season may get off to flat start.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg

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Crock of ****!

May 27 2013 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

oh, "tapped" out---i dont get it.

May 27 2013 at 2:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"beer sales taped out"... hey, i get it. very punny.

May 27 2013 at 2:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its called the "Greatest Generation?"
Its no fun living on Mars and being a Geezer

May 26 2013 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Tank car beer probably is declining in the pubs as drinking - driving laws now limit you to 1 beer. If you are going to have only 1, the craft beers are wonderful. Tank car beers are for graduation parties!

May 26 2013 at 5:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Between the craft beers (better beer) and the higher prices for the commercial beers. The ever growing number of home brewers (best beer) , yes beer sales are down. For half the cost I pay for beer I can brew twice the amount of a much better beer (the best).

May 26 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Awwwwwwwwwwww... the poor beer CEOs are worried about losing a few million. Boo hoo, boo hoo. Curl up and DIE, you greedy b------s.

May 25 2013 at 10:30 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mebecarl's comment
Hi Kathy & Dean

Pathetic posting.

May 26 2013 at 5:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

How's life in mom's basement?

May 27 2013 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm highly dubious that beer sales, overall, are actually down. Instead, isn't a BIT more likely that the rise of smaller breweries that make better beer are kicking the %@#$ out of the big corporations that make horrible beer? People say beer is an "acquired taste." No, American big beer is an acquired taste: because sucks. Here's a test: when you have a friend from overseas visiting, see if they put up with Budweiser and Coors Light. They won't. And if they won't, why should we?

May 25 2013 at 8:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to B N's comment

Yeah but no...

Facts matter dude, and beer sales are down.

Sorry to crash your diatribe with FACTS.

May 26 2013 at 2:05 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Robert Brooks

I'll take a good pricey local craft than a $6 a 6pk Bud any day. Blue Mountain Brewery can take my money any day. At least these guys put time into their product.

May 25 2013 at 8:00 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Get the price right, you might sell more.That's why the off brands are selling. Drank Miller for forty years..I switched.

May 25 2013 at 7:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply