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    Polls: Beer is Back, Craft is Cool

    A Gallup poll finds consumers' beer preference over wine and spirits moves into double digits. Meanwhile, a new survey by The Brewers Association finds craft beer is growing despite the economy.

    ST. LOUIS -- The recently released Consumption Habits Gallup poll found consumers' preference for beer over other alcohol beverages returned to double digits for the first time since 2002.

    The study, which was cited in a statement by Anheuser-Busch, also found this shift in preference was particularly evident in the age bracket of 30 to 49. Combined data from the 2004 and 2005 surveys revealed drinkers in this age group were about as likely to prefer wine as beer. This year's survey, however, showed these drinkers shifted to beer's side, with an average of 47 percent in the combined 2007-2008 data stating they most often drink beer. In addition, drinking preferences among adults ages 21-29 remain stable in recent years, with the majority showing a wide preference for beer, according to the survey.

    "This poll shows what we've always known -- that trends will come and go but beer is here to stay," Bob Lachky, executive vice president, Global Industry and Creative Development for A-B, and leader of the beer appreciation "Here's To Beer" campaign, said in a statement. "More Americans are learning -- or re-learning -- how to appreciate the wide variety of beer styles available and how easy it is to pair beer with all types of food, which is also attracting new adult consumers to the beer category."

    In other beer news, a recent study by Boulder, Colo.-based The Brewer's Association revealed beer sales from American craft brewers continue to grow despite a softening economy and challenges with raw material supplies and pricing.

    The association defines craft beer as those made by brewers that have an annual production of less than two million barrels; less than 25 percent of the brewery’s ownership and control is from an alcohol beverage industry member who is not a craft brewer; and the flagship product is an all malt beverage, or at least 50 percent of its volume is all malt or in beers that use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten the flavor.

    Dollar sales of craft beer during the first half of 2008 increased 11 percent over the same period in 2007, which the association attributed to grassroots movements toward fuller flavored, small batch beers made by independent craft brewers.

    "Newer brands by the larger brewers, like Belgian style wheat beers, have huge distribution advantages over beers by independent craft brewers," Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, said in a statement. "These brands can grow when the large brewers decide they want them to grow, with the ability to impact what brands get shelf space and tap handles. At the same time, beer from craft brewers is being requested by the customer, which encourages distributors and retailers to make the beer available."

    The Association also found in the first half of 2008, volume of beer sold by craft brewers grew 6.5 percent to total an estimated four million barrels of beer, compared to 3.76 million barrels in the first half of 2007.

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