What better way to get back into the beer blogging spirit than with some 2019 predictions to kick off the year! I remain positive on the beer industry and its future, but "the pinch" happening right now as a result of 7,000+ breweries and a seemingly flat consumer base cannot be ignored. So while some of these predictions may have negative undertones, I remain excited about what we're going to see moving forward as the cream rises to the top. I invited some industry friends from around the country to contribute a prediction of their own. So thank you to Chris, Kenny, Kate, and Danny for letting me include yours. And here we go...
1) Brewery openings continue to outpace closings, but barrels produced by 2019 closures will exceed barrels produced by the new openings
2) Criticisms for "chasing trends" die down as Survival Mode becomes an industry-wide theme
3) The "craft" lager/pilsner 6-pack will become an endangered species at retail
4) Reports of a quick death for the Brut IPA prove premature
A number of the larger, top 50 breweries were either late to the Hazy IPA trend, or skipped it entirely. Some may have underestimated the level of interest in the style, it's consumer, or the positive impact it could have on their business. Difference in brewing philosophy likely slowed down many larger craft breweries, while some may have flat out been asleep at the wheel. As beer sales slow and the demand for new continues to rise, everyone appears to have been ready for the Brut IPA to come along, and were quick to react. Their growth likely depends on it.
I've had quite a few Brut IPAs now and I'd give a strong advantage to the cleanness of examples produced by the larger breweries. Unlike a 6-pack of a salty Gose, Triple IPA, or Imperial Porter, the last few of these well-made Brut IPAs don't linger in the back of your refrigerator for months. Examples that were done right go down easy, aren't filling, and make it difficult to have just one. This will help significantly with re-buys, versus consumers buying just to try it, then moving on.
With the larger breweries jumping all over this trend, the smaller breweries are forced to take the style further in order to move enough 16oz cans at the margins they're accustomed to. You'll see them creating more Imperial and fruited versions as a point of differentiation. The few in this realm that I've had were not as desirable, or at least didn't leave me wanting a second pint. So while I agree that Brut IPAs will not be a beer geek or Instagram phenomenon in 2019, I do believe that they're about to penetrate the mainstream customer.
5) More variety packs, from the places you least expect...
6) Hazy penetrates further into mainstream, starts seeing some push-back from enthusiasts, balance of power begins tipping back to retailers
Celebrity Guest Contributions
7) Death of the All Sour House
8) "More of the same Hazy IPAs will open doors for those bold enough to do something different."
Those breweries that were daring enough to not put all their eggs in the juicy basket, and offered a variety of hoppy styles will be well positioned to fill tap handles at bars looking to supplement their existing NEIPAs on draft. I tend to think of a larger regional or nation breweries in this regard, who may reap some (much needed) benefit of a "retro" flavor profile that they will be seen to have been authentically sticking by all along. Breweries such as Odell, or Bell's, would fit this bill nicely. Or it could come from some contrarian newcomers who boldly stick their necks out from the get-go and zag while others zig.
Sadly, I can't immediately think of anyone who fits this bill - although I'm sure they are out there. Finally, if this type of stylistic return to form is to occur, I'm curious how it will be received when breweries known for haze start to dabble in "retro" IPAs. Will they be see purely as opportunistic, as many elder statesmen of craft beer were seen when pivoting to juicy styles? Or will their cache only enhance the growth of a retro resurgence, and perhaps even be credited to them?"
9) Further decline in prominence of the formerly ubiquitous flagship line-up of packaged beers
"Yes, there's still a place for really good and really reliable, but I bet in 2019 we see a further decline of the 5-6 packaged flagship beer line-up (the IPA, the pale ale, the golden ale, the porter...) offered by small to mid-sized packaging breweries. With the exception of maybe 1-2 core beers, agility and variation may continue to win over tested and true. In 2019, I'm anticipating even more style specialization coming from newer breweries."
"There were many complex sourcing factors that may have led to moments in 2018 when can-focused small to mid-sized breweries experienced bottlenecking when it came to procuring aluminum cans to package their beers in. Some breweries even took to wrapping labels over pre-printed cans. I wouldn't be surprised if this sourcing unreliabillity continues and encourages more breweries to return their focus to bottles for small batches and special releases."
Kenny Gould - Founder, HopCulture.com
Doug is a CPA with a knack for photography, design, and social media. Professionally, he is the CFO & Head of Communications for Revolution Brewing. Opinions are his own.