The effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic are still being felt by American craft breweries everywhere. Earlier in May 2021, the CDC published their predictions that cases in the U.S. will likely decline starting around July, giving brewers hope for a return to higher on-premise sales. Be that as it may, the events of the previous year have forced many independent breweries to pivot their business models in order to stay afloat.

A survey conducted by online craft beer retailer Tavour in March of 2021 found that many breweries shifted an average of 25% of their business to online channels. Since March, the app-based bottleshop provided more than 26 new breweries a platform through which to share their beers with a national audience, joining the 600+ craft breweries already working with Tavour. 

In order to better serve the nation’s beer aficionados and provide insights on upcoming industry trends, Tavour closely examines their inventory data and brewery trends each month. Based on these findings, here are the top trends of May 2021:

  • Hoppy & Juicy: the style for summer — Moving into the summer months, Hoppy & Juicy beers remain in the lead for the largest style category.
  • Craft Ciders are growing — Between April and May, the Cider category joined the best-selling styles on Tavour.
  • Hard Seltzer Smoothies became more popular — Among the top 5 best-selling beers were two Smooj Hard Seltzer Smoothies.
  • New Breweries make waves — 7 new breweries joined Tavour in May, one of which became shared one of the month’s best-selling beers.

Hoppy & Juicy: the Style for Summer

To more accurately reflect the diversity of craft beer options available today, Tavour organizes the beers they receive into specific style categories:

Hoppy & Juicy - IPAs, Pale Ales, aggressively hopped styles

Dark & Intense - Stouts, Porters, Barleywines, certain Meads, other dark and high ABV styles

Sour & Funky - Sour Ales, Wild Ales, Farmhouse styles

Light & Crisp - Pilsners, Lagers, Golden Ales, Kölsch, Hard Seltzers, other light styles

Cider - Hard Ciders

Through the month of May, the Hoppy & Juicy category maintained its place as the most popular style category available on Tavour. Of all beers offered during the month of May, 32.7% were Hoppy & Juicy beers, with IPAs accounting for 32.5% of the best-selling beers. This suggests that IPAs and other aggressively hopped styles will continue to hold the spotlight during the coming summer months.

Below is a breakdown of beer styles available on Tavour by category from March to May:

In March, the Sour & Funky category gained the lead on Hoppy & Juicy. However, moving into April and through May, Hoppy & Juicy beers once again appeared on the Tavour app more than any other category. From March to May, all other style categories have remained about the same, with the exception of Sour & Funky beers, which currently show a downward trend. 

Craft Ciders Are Growing

In April, Tavour predicted that Fruited Beer styles in the Sour & Funky category would see a jump in the coming months. This was after an exponential increase in these styles being made available through the app in March. The Sour & Funky category did gain momentum among the best-sellers on Tavour, however craft Ciders saw even bigger growth between April and May. 

Of the 40 best-selling beers in May, 5% were craft Ciders. Compared to the month prior, which saw zero Ciders on the best-sellers list, this is a significant change. To be sure, these were not exactly traditional Ciders — they were all infused with interesting fruits, such as mangoes, blueberries, and even rosehips. 

This upward lift could be indicative of a broader trend, one that tells us the popularity of Fruited Ciders will keep rising alongside Fruited Beer styles for the next few months.

Hard Seltzer Smoothies Become More Popular

Hard Seltzers became a fast favorite among craft beer lovers. In an earlier Brewers Association Collab Hour — a webcast for the Association’s members that highlights industry patterns, expert insights, and community news — the Director of Customer Success at Fintech, Anna Nadasdy, addressed the Hard Seltzer trend. She noted how in the past year alone, the thirst-quenching, low calorie drink category added a staggering $2.8 billion to the beer market!

In January 2021, Tavour received their first shipment of Smooj Seltzers, a new type of heavily fruited Hard Seltzer pioneered by the Seltzer arm of HOMES Brewery in Michigan. These thick, pulpy beverages leveraged a huge hype in the craft community right out of the gate. Now, more breweries are starting to produce their own Smoothie Seltzers.

In May, Smooj solidified a place as the preferred Hard Seltzer Smoothie among Tavour’s fanbase. Their Pina Colada and Strawberry Banana Smoothie Seltzers each took a spot among the top 5 best selling beers of the month!

This deviates from the previous month, where the top 5 best selling beers were Fruited Sours or Barrel Aged Stouts. In fact, none of the top 5 best sellers in May were Fruited Sours —  something that hasn’t happened since Tavour began tracking this data back in February.

As this trending style continues to reach a wider audience of craft drinkers, we predict that Hard Seltzer Smoothies like Smooj will only continue to gain popularity in the coming year.

New Breweries Make Waves

In May, 7 new breweries began sharing their beers nationally through Tavour. They were:

In a surprising turn of events, Old Irving Brewing Co. came out as one of the best selling breweries in May with their Beezer New England IPA. It marks a rare occasion where a brand-new brewery takes a top spot in Tavour members’ favorites-list. 

This could be expected, however, considering that Hoppy & Juicy beers are currently the most popular styles on the Tavour app. 

Other new breweries that joined Tavour in the last few months also made their first appearances on the best-sellers list in May, including Five Threads Brewing Company and Magnify Brewing Company. Both of these breweries made the list with aggressively hopped IPAs.

What Will We See Next?

The data from May presents several trends that we may see continue as Q2 comes to a close in June, perhaps even extending into the rest of summer 2021:

  • Hoppy & Juicy beer styles will likely remain in the lead as the most popular beers moving into the summer months.
  • “Beyond Beer” styles, such as craft Ciders and Hard Seltzer Smoothies, will continue to be a favorite for craft drinkers heading into warmer weather. 
  • With many breweries releasing new Fruited Beers every day, the rise in their popularity seen in April could start to plateau as the market becomes more and more saturated.
  • Craft brewers still prefer to package their beers in 16oz cans more than any other type of container, however data from May suggests that this trend is shifting downward. Since February, the amount of beers on Tavour in 16oz cans has dropped from 72.5% to a mere 55.3%.

It’s also worth noting that, while app-based delivery services increased in popularity in general during the pandemic, it’s likely that most people will want to keep ordering their favorite craft beers for delivery even as restrictions ease. Tavour will continue connecting craft beer fans with limited releases and other hard-to-find beers from around the nation.