Although founder and CEO Jim Koch once said the Samuel Adams brewer would never make near-beer, he recently said in a statement, "I've learned over the years never to say never." Boston Beer plans to introduce Just the Haze, an India pale ale with 0.5% alcohol by volume, early next year.
Crying in their beer
The near-beer trend gained a lot of momentum last year as Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) and Molson Coors (NYSE:TAP) flooded the market with various brands of no- and low-alcohol beer. Anheuser-Busch has said it wants the category to account for one-fifth of sales by 2025.
The market analysts at IWSR said near-beer volumes jumped 19% last year even as total beer volume declined 2%.
Non-alcoholic beer originally gained popularity during Prohibition, but the repeal of the Volstead Act caused it to virtually disappear from the market. Until recently, Anheuser-Busch's O'Doul's was arguably the best known near-beer, but as consumers' tastes changed toward lighter, healthier options, the big brewers began introducing more options.
Boston Beer, of course, has been both victim and beneficiary of the change. Although the market for its Samuel Adams lager beer has collapsed over time, it has seen sales of its Truly brand of hard seltzer rocket to become the second biggest on the market.
Molson Coors recently said it will introduce a bevy of non-alcoholic beverages to the market later this year, including a non-alcoholic seltzer with probiotics called Huzzah.
For Boston Beer, however, between its hard seltzer, cider, tea, kombucha, and now near-beer, the brewer makes more non-beer beverages than beer.