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…)

Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America is releasing this spring its first-ever report on just how involved wholesalers get in their communities titled Investing in Communities. Through various philanthropic efforts across the country, wholesalers large and small are giving back – an effort that goes largely undocumented.

“Because the work of wholesalers is so widespread in every community where they operate, and it has long been behind the scenes, we felt it is an essential story to tell because philanthropy and engagement are an essential part of who wholesalers are and how they operate,” says Jeff Solsby of WSWA.

The wholesale industry is widespread with over 63,000 workers earning a total of approximately $5 billion in wages each year working at 4,400 locations, the report says.

Produced on a biennial basis going forward, every winter and spring in odd-numbered years, the report’s release will coincide with the seating of new congresses and legislatures, and will be updated and refreshed on an ongoing basis, according to Solsby. (read more…)

The popularity of craft and small-batch brews has been growing steadily, fueled in part by a growing awareness of the ways beer and food work together to tempt increasingly adventurous palates in search of new flavors.

U.S. craft beer continued to soar in popularity both at home and abroad last year, jumping 22% to $19.6 billion, according to the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association. Craft beer has grown to 11% of the total beer market, a new record, and there were 3,418 craft breweries operating by the end of 2014.

The Culinary Institute of America is putting more of an emphasis on beer, with plans to open a craft brewery on its campus in Hyde Park, N.Y., this year, staffed by students. And last week, the Brewers Association named classically trained chef and former restaurateur Adam Dulye as its first executive chef.

Dulye, a CIA graduate, honed his craft at restaurants in Portland, Ore., and Aspen, Colo., before moving to San Francisco and eventually opening two restaurants, including The Abbot’s Cellar which featured a four-course tasting menu paired with different beers. (read more…)

Cocktail fans turn to hot toddies, tipplers sip warm brown whiskies and wine drinkers often put away the rosé in favor of something deep and red to keep the winter chill at bay. It may be meyer lemon season and time for light aperitifs on the west coast, but in colder climates cocktail fans seek out beverages to warm them up inside and out.

“They’re going for a lot of the same things that they’ve been going for for a while, a lot of bourbon and whiskey, but they’re getting a lot more creative this winter,” said Adrian Watson, owner of mobile bartending service VIP Mixologists.

Aged rums are growing in popularity as people get more adventurous, he said, and hot eggnogs, ciders and exotic liqueurs in flavors like pomegranate are pleasing more palates. One new specialty for VIP, which serves cocktails made with fresh, organic ingredients, is a hot cider made with fresh apples, cinnamon and aged rum, and another is a chai tea spiked with bourbon and cinnamon. (read more…)