The beer industry is madly trying to figure out how to reverse this trend, which industry insiders insist is cyclical but which some analysts warn could represent a more long-term change in who drinks what and when.
"Demographic trends are working against the brewers," said Bonnie Herzog, a beverage industry analyst for Citigroup Investment Research.
Younger consumers raised on an ever-growing array of soda flavors and juice drinks, Herzog and others say, are finding the transition into alcohol a little easier with mixed drinks, which can be sweeter than beer and personalized to one's own taste. Baby boomers, meanwhile, are gradually transitioning from beer to wine and cocktails. And across the board, beer is suffering from a bit of an image problem.
But brewers say they get it now. They say they're on it, even though the industry continued to dip through the first half of this year, according to researchers who follow beer sales. Companies are investing heavily in new product development, new packaging and new marketing - all aimed at getting people to turn to beer for more "drinking occasions."