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Restaurant Menu Watch: Craft beer catches fire

Restaurant Menu Watch: Craft beer catches fire

NRN senior food editor Bret thorn breaks down what you should be watching in the industry this week. Connect with him on the latest marketing trends and news at [email protected] and @foodwriterdiary.   Related Beverage expert details cocktail trends Twin Peaks: In-house brewery could be key to success More beverage news

Craft beer sales are on fire. The Brewers Association, a trade group, reports that sales of these distinctive brews, generally made by small producers — you can get a full, if somewhat vague, definition of craft brewers here — jumped by 17.2 percent in 2013, a year when overall domestic beer sales dropped by 1.9 percent.

And that’s measured by volume. Since craft beers generally fetch higher prices, they’re growing even faster in dollar terms and now make up 14.3 percent of the overall domestic beer market.


You probably already knew something about that, as restaurateurs have taken to stocking more local, small production brews and a growing number of restaurant chains are giving franchisees and regional managers more leeway in picking the craft beers  their customers are most likely to enjoy.

Food-and-craft beer pairings have become so popular that we at Nation’s Restaurant News have started to feature them, highlighting, for example, how Rappahannock in Richmond, Va., is matching a local barrel aged beer with its scallop ceviche, and how Publik Draft House in Atlanta is pairing a local India pale ale with its short rib sliders.

Better burger chain Smashburger has even teamed up with local breweries in the markets where it operates to develop beer pairings for its hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.

Of course there are several microbrewing restaurant chains, including Rock Bottom Brewing Company and its sister Gordon Biersch, and beer sourcing specialists such as Yard House. A growing number of independent restaurants are making their own beers, too or having them custom-made for them by local craft brewers.

You’re likely to see more of that in the years to come as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed a bill into law authorizing The Culinary Institute of America to set up its own craft brewery on its campus in Hyde Park, N.Y.

The CIA is teaming up with Brooklyn Brewery to open the facility, which is slated to start operating in summer 2015.

It will be a teaching brewery, according to the CIA, and will be operated by juniors and seniors studying advanced wine, beverage and hospitality. In the process they’ll learn about fermentation and brewing techniques, food-and-beer pairings, as well as business aspects of brewing. And they’ll sell the beer, too — initially lager and seasonal brews — at the college’s four on-campus restaurants.

The Poughkeepsie Journal quoted Cuomo as saying the brewery would help boost tourism and help the Hudson Valley economy, which is why he signed the bill.

Contact Bret Thorn: [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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