big beer wine spirits

Is brand beer losing out to wine and spirits with drinkers? In March, beer account for half the U.S. market share for alcoholic beverages, with hard liquor scooping up a third with the remaining percent going to wine.

But Ad Age points to Beer Marketer's Insights figures that have beer shipment volumes falling for three years straight through 2011. For the 52 weeks ending May 26, volumes fell .3 percent -- compared to a 3.2 increase for spirits.

The numbers will likely be much-talked about at this week's Beer Institute, which gathers leaders from top companies including MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch. Last year, the institute's soon-to-be new chairman, MillerCoors' CEO Tom Long spoke on issue at the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) annual meeting:

The days of beer guys knocking each other around and not worrying too much about spirits and wine is over, and it’s frankly been over for a long time. And if we’re going to thrive long term, then we’re going to have to look at those competitors and as an industry take on the challenge of brand beer.

Ad Age suggests that big market beer is considering emphasizing its products as the beverages of "moderation," which Anheuser-Busch VP-Marketing Paul Chibe told the publication "gives it a distinct advantage" over other booze options.

Craft beer, on the other hand, has experienced a boom in popularity with consumers. Craft beer rounded out 2011 with a 13 percent increase in volume. As of May, the total number of U.S. craft breweries numbered an astounding 1,989.

Even baseball fields, once the dominion of big name beer, are catching on.

Also, a recent indication that brand beer is concerned about the growing popularity of craft brews came in May, when an accolade that was reportedly supposed to go to popular Scottish outfit BrewDog went to mega company Diageo after some employees pitched a fit.

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Atlanta Braves: Turner Field

    While watching the Braves play, try a couple of terrific beers from hometown brewery SweetWater. Try the crisp and fragrant 420 Pale, intense IPA or the light-bodied, blueberry-accented Blue. It'll <a href="" target="_hplink">whet your appetite for the specialty at Taqueria del Sol </a>after the game.

  • Colorado Rockies: Coors Field

    <a href="" target="_hplink">In the mile-high air of Denver, the eats are great and</a> the balls fly up and out of the ballpark as rapidly as you down Oskar Blues' potent, fragrant Dale's Pale Ale. Naturally, Coors is available too, but skip the Banquet Beer in lieu of the company's on-premise SandLot Brewery. You'll find fine pilseners, hefeweizens and even curiosities like a smoky chocolate porter. <em>Photo by Flickr user <a href="" target="_hplink">Bernt Rostad</a>.</em>

  • Houston Astros: Minute Maid Park

    <a href="" target="_hplink">To slake your thirst during a torrid Texas summer afternoon</a>, opt for the Saint Arnold Amber Ale and crisp, refreshing Fancy Lawnmower.

  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Angel Stadium

    In addition to Albert Pujols, the Angels also added craft beer to their stadium this year. <a href="" target="_hplink">Expect suds from great local breweries</a>, including Bootlegger's Old World Hefeweizen and Palomino Pale Ale, as well as Hangar 24's Amarillo Pale Ale and Orange Wheat. <a href="" target="_hplink">What happens later in the evening is out of our control.</a>

  • Milwaukee Brewers: Miller Park

    Though the ballpark is named after the massive lager brewery, <a href="" target="_hplink">craft-beer fans can still content themselves with superb brews</a> from Wisconsin's Milwaukee Brewing Company, Sprecher, Lakefront and the cultish brewery, New Glarus.

  • New York Mets: Citi Field

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Here's some good news, Mets fans</a>. Though your team is in disarray, you can sip some fine New York craft beers such as Blue Point Toasted Lager and White IPA, Sixpoint Sweet Action and Ommegang Abbey Ale. <a href="" target="_hplink">They go great with Pastrachos.</a>

  • Philadelphia Phillies: Citizens Bank Field

    Beer-mad Philadelphia has no shortage of great craft beer at the ballpark. Select from excellent area-made offerings like Sly Fox's Pikeland Pils and smooth Royal Weisse, Flying Fish Extra Pale and Abbey Dubbel, Yards Brewing Philadelphia Pale Ale and Victory Hop Devil IPA. Need a pick-me-up after all that beer? <a href="" target="_hplink">Seek out the Rival Brothers Truck for a great cup of joe.</a>

  • Pittsburgh Pirates: PNC Park

    Will the Pirates finally climb out of the cellar? We wouldn't bet bucks on it, but we'll happily spend our money on East End Brewing's Big Hop IPA and Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale, as well as first-rate ales from Pennsylvania breweries including Erie Brewing, Church Beer Works, Victory and Tröegs. Even cooler, once a month PNC Park offers a beer passport that permits entrance before the game <a href="" target="_hplink">for a beer tasting</a>.

  • San Diego Padres: Petco Park

    Craft-beer worship and baseball reach their zenith at San Diego's Petco Park, where the landmark Western Metal Supply Co. contains the Brickhouse Deli. Here, Neil the Beerman serves dozens of brews, including offerings from local all-stars Ballast Point, Stone and Green Flash. <a href="" target="_hplink">Here's where you'll want to go after the game.</a>

  • San Francisco Giants: AT&T Park

    This year, the Giants unveiled Anchor Plaza, a taproom and beer garden <a href="" target="_hplink">featuring the signature suds of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing</a>, including the Liberty Ale, Porter and venerable Steam.

  • Washington Nationals: Nationals Park

    Per usual, the Nationals' chances for a pennant seem distant at best. Happily, <a href="" target="_hplink">fans can drown their eventual sorrows with Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA</a> or perhaps Flying Dog's In Heat Wheat or UnderDog Atlantic Lager.