Here is a question you’ve probably never heard from behind the bar: “Excuse me, bartender? Exactly how water-efficient IS that double IPA on tap?”

While I personally ask that two or three times each week, I realize it usually isn’t a top concern for most beer enthusiasts — at least not yet.

Trends, they are a-changing

“Beer drinkers will always choose their beer based upon quality, taste, and local origin,” said Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “We focus heavily upon these three topics but we want to add one more cutting-edge issue: environmental sustainability.”

That said, Chastain is beginning to find sustainability is a brand differentiator and beer drinkers are taking notice.

“More and more, we are finding that customers are excited to learn sustainability is a core value for us, and they look for our brand on every beer menu,” she said.

Restaurateurs should take note: beverage sales are an important part of business revenue, with full-service restaurants typically earning between $1,015 and $2,901 per seat, per year for beer and wine combined, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Operations Report 2013-2014 edition. (read more…)

Descriptions including “craft”, “small batch,” “custom,” “limited edition” and “artisan/artisanal” are more likely to influence the purchasing decisions of millennials than they are to sway older consumers, according to a recent Harris Poll. Chefs and restaurateurs are finding ways to feed the trend — the Culinary Institute of America will hold a Crafting Beer and Food Summit in October, bringing together master brewers and chefs to create menus that complement craft beers.

Millennials are driving much of the growth, as they seek out local, authentic and artisan beer, as well as wine and spirits, said NPD Group Vice President Warren Solochek. The trend in food and beverage in general is toward healthier options, but “healthy” means different things to different people, and in the case of beer, wine and spirits, local and artisan are much more relevant to millennials than calorie counts, he said.

“It’s more true of millennials than others, but it’s also catching on with those of us who are a little older chronologically,” Solochek said. (read more…)

Wine lovers may pay more attention to variety, vintage and what color goes with which dish, but some are also giving more thought to where and how the grapes were grown. Sustainable agriculture doesn’t have a fixed definition in the way “organic” has had since federal organic standards were finalized in 2000, but a growing number of consumers are seeking sustainably produced wine, and third-party certification programs are infusing the term with more meaning.

The wine industry has been open to collaborating on sustainability issues, perhaps more so than other agricultural sectors that haven’t had to band together as much in the past, said Executive Director Allison Jordan of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, an educational program formed by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers that launched a statewide sustainability certification program in 2010.

Last year, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission committed to becoming the country’s first 100% sustainable wine producing county by 2019. (read more…)

Memorial Day marked the unofficial start of summer, and warm, sunny days sent bars, restaurants and cocktail fans to Twitter and Instagram to share ideas for #summercocktails.

Beer is by far the most popular alcoholic beverage for summer, followed by wine and then cocktails, according to NPD Group. Last summer, U.S. patrons downed 335 million beers, drank 179 million glasses of wine and sipped 158 million mixed drinks, according to NPD data. Those numbers cover May through July, and trends have held steady for the past several summers, said NPD Vice President Warren Solochek.

Microbrews continue to grow in popularity, a trend likely to spike in the summer months as beer consumption increases, while those who prefer spirits will increasingly seek out fresh ingredients this summer, said Solochek, who presented at the Vibe Conference in March, an event that brings together beverage manufacturers with restaurant operators and others in the hospitality industry. (read more…)

It is nearly impossible to be taken seriously as a brand without establishing a social media presence. This holds true in the food and beverage arena — brands are expected to communicate and connect with their consumers online through social media in order to stay relevant. According to Razorfish, 64% of consumers have made a first purchase from a brand because of a digital experience, and more than half of consumers use the internet before making a purchase in shops.

One St. Helena, Calif.-based winery, Whitehall Lane, understands the value and necessity of doing social media effectively. Katie Leonardini, vice president of retail sales for Whitehall Lane, created social media pages in 2008 and saw immediate benefits in the way these accounts allowed the brand to connect directly with its audience. She decided social media was worth the effort, and began a working relationship with The Abbi Agency to manage Whitehall Lane’s social media content. (read more…)