Could Craft Beer’s Popularity Lead to a Different Kind of Binge Drinker?

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Could Craft Beer’s Popularity Lead to a Different Kind of Binge Drinker?Beer chugging may be associated with fraternity and bachelor parties, but a surprising segment of the population is edging craft beer sales up. Soccer moms are among those that have developed a taste for craft brews.

The rising popularity of craft beer brands is the subject of a recent report. The sales for craft beer stand in stark contrast when compared to that of traditional brews, according to food industry consulting firm Technomic’s report. Total 2013 beer sales in the United States are down 1.4 percent, while craft beer sales increased 9.6 percent.

Technomic vice president David Henkes notes that craft beer has been a part of the market since the 1970s. However, the past six or seven years have shown a significant increase in craft brew popularity.

The Brewers Association recently released their own report on the Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewers and Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies. Based on 2013 beer sale volume, they reported that craft beer was 14 percent of the total U.S. beer market.

Growth is particularly robust in the area of India Pale Ales (IPAs) and other hoppy beers. Some market analysts say this increased popularity, which should hit 40 percent growth for IPAs for 2013, is due to the tastes of Millennials who are interested in trying new things.

But brewers say their observations reflect a more widespread interest in craft beer. Charlie Paulette, Chief Sales and Marketing Manager for The Gambrinus Company, is seeing craft beers hitting all segments of the adult population. Gambrinus owns Spoetzl Brewery, which makes Shiner Beers, and imports Corona and Moosehead into the U.S. Belgian white ales and Shiner Bock are now being consumed by soccer moms and retirees. Sales of Shiner were up seven percent in 2013, and Gambrinus/Shiner is now the fourth largest craft brewer in the industry according to the Brewers Association.

While beer marketers may be contemplating consolidation to capture the interest in craft beer brands, those that treat alcohol addiction may be preparing to see typical problem drinker profiles turned on their heads. For instance, while a soccer mom may not be at an increased risk for binge drinking with traditional beer, she may overindulge in a craft beer without intending to binge drink.

There has been little documentation of the effect of craft beers on the risk factors that can lead to problem drinking, but drug addiction treatment has witnessed a change in the profile of a typical drug addict. The effect is due to a significant increase in the abuse of prescription drugs, which often begin with a legitimate chronic pain problem.

In the case of prescription drugs, there have been situations in which a middle-class mom struggles to admit an addiction because she did not believe she fit the profile of a drug abuser. The stigma associated with drug addiction prevented her from seeking help.

The same could occur with soccer moms and other atypical drinkers who take an interest in craft beer and begin to push the limits. Binge drinking is defined as at least four drinks in one sitting for women and five drinks in one sitting for men.

Those individuals that consume craft beer should be aware that, just like mass produced beer, it carries increased risk for involvement in an assault, injury and dangerous sexual behaviors. Long-term risks include an increased likelihood of developing liver disease, certain cancers and heart disease.

Problem drinking is not diagnosed based on a set criteria that determines whether a person is or isn’t an alcoholic. Drinkers should be aware that problems can begin long before a person meets the criteria for alcoholism, including damaged relationships and increased health risks.