Craft beer trend rises as students change drinking habits

Cooper Nickel worked to boil, bottle and ferment. After hours of trying to find the right combination of ingredients and discussing the process with his two friends, both the over-sanitized beer and Nickel’s vision of a delicious home brew went down the drain.

The way students drink beer is changing.

Nickel, a senior from Lindsborg, has left behind cheap beer for craft beer and his own home brew. And, although his latest experiment was unsuccessful— because of an overdose of iodophor—his other attempts have resulted in a good, cost-efficient beverage.

“I haven’t bought cheap beer for a very long time,” Nickel said.

Nickel and his friends Kurtis Myers and Grant Doerkson, both of whom are University alumni, first tried out home brewing a couple of years ago, and it made them appreciate the art of crafting beer.

“The whole process to start a batch takes about six hours from boil to bottling for fermenting. However, the rewards are great. The grain and all for one batch that makes around three to four gallons of beer costs around 40 bucks with shipping. It’s well worth the price, as it tastes phenomenally superb to any cheap beer,” Nickel said.

Nickel says that brewing his own beer is well worth the time and effort it takes to complete a batch.

“You get to play with the taste and in brewing your own beer you begin to appreciate craft breweries a whole lot more,” Nickel said.

Over the last two years, the craft beer market has been growing rapidly. According to the Brewers Association, an organization made up of more than 1,500 United States brewery members, more than 34,000 American Homebrewers Association members and other craftsmen of the beer trade, there are currently 2,126 breweries in the United States—up by 350 since June 2011.

Craft beer and home brewing are becoming so popular among students that a group of beer lovers started the KU Beer Club.

Alek Joyce, a junior from Lawrence and treasurer of the club, said that members share each other’s favorite beers at the meetings.

“During our meetings, we focus exclusively on craft beers. Each meeting, we ask everyone to bring a six pack, and then we share the beers around the group,” Joyce said, “All in all, I’d say our personal tastes are all shifting towards investing in craft beers rather than just sufficing with cheaper stuff.”

Nickel also goes into liquor stores for craft beer and usually purchases a “make your own six pack” that many of the Lawrence liquor stores offer to beer drinkers who want variety.

“My favorite thing to do is to go to the liquor store and purchase a ‘mix six’ and try out a variety of craft beers,” Nickel said.

Brendan Dowdle, the General Manager of Cork and Barrel on 9th and Indiana, says that sales reflect the shift in people choosing craft beer over cheap beer.

“Domestic beer is selling less and less. Craft beer sales have gradually risen every year. We don’t expect to see a slow down on craft beer sales over the next ten years, especially with the amount of microbreweries opening,” Dowdle said.

Domestic beer companies like Budweiser and Coors are having trouble keeping up with the craft beer competition. Budweiser recently released its Budweiser Black Crown, and will be promoting it with ads during the Super Bowl.

Dowdle said that aside from the new Budweiser Black Crown, the larger beer companies are not really doing much to come out with new beers. The smaller craft beer companies, however, are releasing new beers quite often.

“We see a new craft beer every week. I hope people are turning to craft beer because they want to buy American, but I think realistically it’s becoming popular, the word is getting out, they find out it’s good and people like the flavor,” Dowdle said. “They’re not just drinking to get drunk.”

  • Updated Jan. 29, 2013 at 11:56 pm
  • Edited by Brian Sisk