Double digit growth is predicted for winter seasonal beers this year, as consumers search for warmer notes, darker colours and deep aroma and flavour.

Yes, Australia has a winter. And as many publicans know, the colder months bring a change in consumer consumption habits. To match the high demand and popularity of winter beer selections, breweries are increasing production and introducing limited seasonal editions which are flying out the doors. This spike in popularity has led to double digit growth for some darker ales in the last 12 months and is predicted to continue growing in 2021.  

Hospitality venues are also increasing order volumes to match the growth of winter beer consumption in Australia and are having no problem selling through kegs, as recommending darker ales is notably easier due to the confidence in consumer experimentation led by the exploding craft beer market.

Although beer consumption typically drops in winter, stouts and darker ales have the potential to see a strong increase in sales in hospitality venues in 2021.

Boost in production

O’Brien Beer has seen tremendous growth in its winter beers due to an increase in distribution and market demand. Its Brown Ale experienced double digit growth last year due to extended distribution and is expected to continue to progress again this year.

However, it is the limited seasonal edition stout that is expected to make wasves, with the brewery predicting back-to-back double digit growth years ahead.

“Our Brown Ale is one of the undiscovered gems in our core range. The double gold medal winning beer continues to grow as we build distribution in retail and hospitality,” Mark Davidson, owner of Rebellion Brewing and brewer of O’Brien Beer explained.

“But it is our Stout that has the potential to double again if we get the marketing right. Given it’s a limited winter release, we have a lot of pent-up demand for it by the time it launches on 1 June. The week we pre-release it to our online subscriber base is one of our biggest online sales weeks of the year.”

Time for a tap change

In light of the expected surge in darker beers in the coming months, the Banjo Paterson Inn Jindabyne, situated in the NSW Snowy Mountains region, is increasing its dark ale volume and providing a range of winter beer choices in its 18 taps on site.

The Banjo is also home to the popular brewery Kosciuszko Brewing Company which is the most sought-after beer brand by many who visit the pub. However, in addition to its own Kosciuszko Pale Ale and seasonal Kosciuszko Ale, the Banjo also rotates in seasonal beers including White Rabbit Chocolate Stout, White Rabbit Dark Ale and Guinness.

“We see a higher consumption of darker ales during the winter months. We find they are more suited to drinking over the colder periods and people are looking for a full-bodied alcohol experience,” Banjo Patterson Inn licensee Cameron McKid said.

“Overall, we have seen consumption of craft beers increase with consumers being more aware of what is available to the market.  We rotate our taps regularly to keep in trend and theme with the seasons.”

More persuadable than ever

The innovation of the growing craft beer market is shifting the decision making of the consumer, translating into beer drinkers becoming more comfortable with experimenting and branching out to winter lagers during the colder months this year.

Craft breweries are exposing consumers to a vast range of hoppy pale ales and IPAs and fruit-based sours. As a result, the expanding palate is becoming accustomed to winter beer flavours as well, which can include chocolate, molasses, coffee, liquorice, caramel, banana, toffee, raisons, and even dried fruit.

This trend creates an opportune time to suggestive sell new flavours and even offer tasting panels for those looking to expand their beer range.

Key to persuasion

With the unique range of flavours on offer to the experimental consumer, knowing your keys to suggestive selling starts with educating staff, according to McKid. He believes instilling knowledge into staff is an important avenue to generating discussion and breaking down barriers with their customers.

 “We always provide training and education on any new craft ale that comes into our venue. We believe knowledge is power and the more our staff can discuss quality beers with consumers the higher the turnover,” McKid said.

On top of having a unique flavour range, dark ales, porters and stouts also offer an opportunity for staff to suggestive sell towards a broader demographic of beer drinkers with the winter beer flavours pairing well with often sought-after hearty meals like roast meats and pies.

Winter is the season when consumers look past lighter pale ales and select stouts and brown and dark ales that bring warmth and comfortupon consumption. With growing demand for more tap selections and increased production from breweries, now is the time to cross over to the dark side.

This article was originally published in the current issue of Australian Hotelier. Check out the magazine below.