Norwegian craft beer 2013

<< 2014-03-29 14:51 >>

Ægir IPA

The Norwegian government alcohol monopoly, called Vinmonopolet in Norwegian (literally the Wine Monopoly) has released sales figures for 2013, so I thought I'd carry on my series of blog posts analyzing their sales figures. The data set starts in 2007 and shows both total sales figures for each product category (like wine, beer, spirits, etc) as well as the best sellers within each category.

The wine monopoly is a monopolist on shop sales alcoholic drinks stronger than 4.75% ABV, which makes these figures particularly valuable, since they show all sales outside the restaurant/pub market. The trend in these figures has been the same every year: at first sight, quite good growth in beer sales. Once you look more closely at the numbers, the story changes, however.

Industrial vs craft beer sales at the wine monopoly

I break down the figures in craft and industrial beers (using a totally subjective classification made by hand by yours truly). This division shows very clearly that industrial beer sales are growing a little bit, while craft beer sales are booming. This story shows very clearly in the figure above. In fact, in my opinion what the figure shows is that industrial and craft beer are two entirely different product categories that have very little in common.

Last year craft and industrial sales were nearly the same (49.1% and 50.9%), and I predicted that this year the wine monopoly would for the first time ever sell more craft beer than industrial beer. Which they did, selling 57.8% craft and 42.2% industrial. In fact, industrial sales are down by 1.9%, while craft sales are up by 39.3%! The wine monopoly is now selling almost 8 times more craft beer than they did in 2007. The average annual growth rate since 2007 has been roughly 40%.

In other words, the boom continues.

This is visible in other places, too. The beer range in supermarkets and even local corner shops keeps growing, more and more new breweries pop up, and the number of books and newspaper articles on beer just keeps growing. The homebrewing competition also grows and just keeps getting bigger every year. Not so many years ago, three people could do the preliminary judging in one evening. Now, it takes six-seven evenings, with much bigger teams, and has to be split over several cities.

Norwegian breweries by year

As the figure above shows, the number of Norwegian breweries has been growing slowly for a decade or so, but now appears to be really exploding. At 83 breweries we've reached a number that I must admit I'm not fully convinced is sustainable, but that's actually good. The same thing happened in the US a decade or so back, and the result was that the poor, inconsistent, badly led breweries dropped out, and the overall quality rose. No doubt the same will happen in Norway in a few years.

For now, however, producing enough seems to be a bigger problem for breweries than selling their products. Ægir opened a huge new brewery in 2012, Nøgne Ø needs to move to a new location to brew more, Haandbryggeriet is moving for the second time in a few years to get more space, and so on. Even a brewpub like Amundsen in Oslo is finding that they can't produce enough, because other pubs are taking their beer and selling it for them.

New Norwegian beers per year

Perhaps the most astonishing figure is the number of new Norwegian beers released in 2013 (as compiled by Yngvar Ørebek): 426. This in a country that not very long ago had five major industrial brewers and a couple of mediocre brewpubs. You can see the development in the figure above, which kind of speaks for itself. The number of new beers stayed kind of flat until 2010, when it exploded, and in 2013 the number almost doubled, which is bigger growth than we've ever seen before.

Anyway, the state of Norwegian craft beer in 2013 is obviously very, very good, and growth appears to be faster than ever before.

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