The surprise beer that’s running up sales in bars right now? Hamm’s

The Beer Refreshing is the beer resurgent in bars and restaurants.

Thanks to an offbeat marketing campaign, a range of new promotions and support from a dedicated community of #Hammpions, sales of the classic lager are growing at a double-digit clip.

Sales volume for Hamm’s is up 14.1% year-to-date in the on-premise, catapulting it into the No. 10 slot in Nielsen’s growth brands in the channel through June 15 across the entire beer category.

In the two most-recent four-week periods for which data are available, Hamm’s is performing even better — ranking as the No. 8 growth brand in the on-premise, per Nielsen CGA data.

“Hamm’s is an uncomplicated, easy beer to drink in any situation in the on-premise. When you order a Hamm’s you know what you’re going to get: a good, refreshing beer that’s inexpensive and accessible,” says Liz Cramton, marketing manager for economy brands at MillerCoors.

It’s an outlier on the bar-and-restaurant growth brands list, ranking as the only non-above-premium brand on the list, which is populated by a clutch of higher-priced beers such as Modelo, Michelob Ultra, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, and two MillerCoors brands, Peroni and Sol, data show.

First brewed in 1865, Hamm’s retro-cool cans confer its 154-year heritage, which lends an authentic story that helps connect with younger legal-age drinkers. Still, the brand remains “discoverable and unique,” particularly because its 16-ounce cans often are showcased as value propositions in bars ranging from corner dives to craft beer joints to high-end restaurants. On top of that, it’s beloved by chefs and bartenders and is gaining a reputation as an industry beer that’s often featured as part of beer-and-a-shot deals.

The clean, 4.7% alcohol-by-volume lager offers an alternative to the juicy, robust IPAs, tart sours and $12 cocktails that fill drink lists at urban bars, and its opening price point encourages low-risk trial, Cramton says.

With a mission statement of “enchanting people with the offbeat charm of a simpler time,” Hamm’s has exercised restraint in its marking efforts, ensuring that its resurgence has come mostly via grassroots-style marketing and word of mouth.

For instance, Hamm’s is not a brand you’ll see plastered on billboards on major highways. Instead, the brand team has targeted neighborhoods for its murals and offbeat billboards. Instead of spending big bucks on television and streaming service spots, it doles out quirky swag and holds Hamm’s happy hours.

It’s an approach that’s working. The beer can be found in buzzy restaurants in big cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia, some of which offer the beer as “Dressed Hamm’s,” a sort of chelada that’s dressed with hot sauce, spiced salt and lime.

“And the great news is that the momentum we’re seeing in the on-premise is carrying over to the off-premise,” Cramton says, noting that six-packs of 16-ounce cans are up 12.2% over the 52-week period ending Aug. 10, per Nielsen.

“It’s really happened naturally in Philly. A couple of bars brought on Hamm’s as almost a novelty and it’s just taken off,” says Jon Fruman, a MillerCoors field marketing manager for the Philadelphia metro area. “It’s a cool, fun brand that a lot of people are getting into.”

Hamm’s has played particularly well in Philadelphia neighborhoods with a hipster vibe and has nudged its way into so-called CityWide specials, the city’s version of beer-and-a-shot.

“It’s got such a great price point, and when people see it, they see something different—something that’s not PBR—and they want to be a part of it,” Fruman says. “The affinity people here have for the brand is almost bizarre. If they see you with a Hamm’s hat or a Hamm’s shirt, they’ll offer to buy it off you. It’s on a pretty amazing run.”