Fanciful Flavors

The cocktail craze is feeding demand for flavored beers.

Brands like South Carolina’s Island Coastal are leaning in to flavored options, introducing Peach last year as well as Watermelon (pictured) and Mango in the Island Active variety pack extension.
Brands like South Carolina’s Island Coastal are leaning in to flavored options, introducing Peach last year as well as Watermelon (pictured) and Mango in the Island Active variety pack extension.

One of the ongoing trends in the beer category today may very well be driven by the enduring cocktail culture. “Some consumers are looking for non-traditional beers or seeking cocktail occasions that include beer,” says Connor Klopcic, director of brewery operations at Michigan’s Perrin Brewing Co. “Cocktail culture has had a big influence on the growing acceptance of flavored beers, as they can be more approachable than some traditional beers.” 

Indeed, flavored beers continue to attract consumers who crave variety, and beer marketers have been quick to respond. Perrin’s first foray into flavored beers, Grapefruit IPA, launched several years ago. “It was immediately popular, so we started experimenting with other flavors,” Klopcic says. While most of the brewery’s flavored brews have incorporated fruit, including blackberry, raspberry, pineapple, and citrus expressions, Perrin also offers No Rules Vietnamese porter, a specialty release with chocolate, coconut, and toffee notes. 

One of the more popular flavors in beer is pineapple, and new entries abound. Perrin expanded its Pineapple Upside Down IPA from a limited release to year-round distribution in the Wolverine State this year, a move that Klopcic says was very popular among consumers. German wheat beer Schofferhofer added a Juicy Pineapple expression this year, and according to Dave Deuser, chief sales and marketing officer at importer The Radeberger Gruppe USA, it’s been a success. Peach-accented beers are also gaining traction. Leinenkugel’s Juicy Peach, introduced in January, has emerged as the top new craft beer in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, according to Molson Coors Beverage Co., surpassing full-year expectations by August. Island Coastal, meanwhile, the super-premium brew from South Carolina’s Island Brands, added a peach flavor last year, which company co-founder Scott Hansen says has been very well received. Among other flavors garnering attention, mango and watermelon stand out. Island Brands’ Island Active beer launched mango and watermelon line extensions as part of a variety pack this year, and according to Hansen, “they’re on fire.” 

But more established beer flavors also continue to resonate with consumers, marketers and retailers say. Schofferhofer Grapefruit is “our hero of the brand family,” says Deuser. Introduced in 2013, the extension has stood the test of time, he says. Marie Greguska, owner of Discount Liquors in Milwaukee, says that sales of German-style radlers like Schofferhofer ($14 a 12-pack of 11.2-ounce cans) “remain strong, and seem to do better every year.” Pumpkin brews have also retained a following, the retailer adds. “They rebounded last year after falling off in recent years because there were so many in the market,” she says. 

Greguska adds that flavored beer consumers skew more female and somewhat older than the typical hard seltzer consumer. At Beehive Pub & Grill in Logan, Utah bar manager Alexa Thunell says consumers of the beverages are “occasional beer drinkers.” She points to brands like Uinta Brewing’s Birthday Suit apricot sour ($5 a 16-ounce pour) as popular among people who don’t normally drink beer. 

In addition to being a somewhat niche product, flavored brews—particularly fruit-flavored offerings like grapefruit, watermelon, lemon, and melon—are up against other challenges like seasonal demand spikes. “The bulk of these sales take place in the warm months, but we carry them year-round,” Greguska says. “It’s still a strong category.” Deuser concedes that Schofferhofer Grapefruit’s popularity wanes in certain climates, but Radeberger is working to expand excitement into the fall with promotions tied to tailgating and Halloween. “We believe we have a flavor that goes well no matter the season we’re in,” he says. “Among warmer climates, Schofferhofer is always in season.” 

Despite any challenges, beer marketers are determined to keep flavored brews on the radar of consumers in search of variety. Hansen reveals that a new Island Coastal flavor could be released before the end of this year, and Deuser says a new Schofferhofer variant being prepared for the spring will be particularly unique. For consumers of flavored beers, new noteworthy expressions will likely continue to pique their interest.