Turn on the Light (Lagers): The Beer World Is Coming Full Circle

Craft breweries once viewed light lagers as the realm of industrial brewers, mass-produced and sold in bulk for a song. Fragrant pale ales, intense IPAs, and silky stouts served as flavorful differentiation, and customers gladly paid extra for pints and six-packs.
But with inflation, layoffs, and recessionary fears headlining the news, well-executed light lagers are emerging as an affordable tool to corral craft consumers watching their wallets and bring mass-market drinkers into the fold.

For SevenFifty Daily, I look at how the beer world is coming full circle as breweries are once again seeing the light.

After Jack’s Abby partnered with the Boston Celtics in summer 2020 to become the basketball team’s official craft brewery, the Framingham, Massachusetts, lager maker developed its dream beer to drink while players dribbled. The brewery released the agreeably bitter and citrusy Pride and Parquet in early 2021 at a moderate 5.7% ABV.

Early sales took off, but the hoppy lager never reached the predicted sales goals. Maybe it was the pandemic, which prevented fan attendance at games, or maybe the brewery had misfired. “It was doing fine, but was it the right fit?” asks Rob Day, the vice president of marketing for Jack’s Abby.

Last fall, the brewery swapped Pride and Parquet for a beer that might better align with sports: a light lager. By January, Banner City at 3.8% ABV was the brewery’s top-selling six-pack (retailing at $9.99) or four-pack (at $10.99), according to IRI data, crushed by fans both at home and in the stands.