2017 is here!
It is time to look into the crystal ball and see the craft beer predictions 2017.
But first, I have to comment on 2016. I already posted about what I learned about craft beer in 2016 but there was a lot of news too. Fellow blogger, Rick Armon, posted about the biggest craft beer stories in Ohio (read it here). Ohio eliminated the ABV cap, a ton of new breweries opened, existing ones expanded, lots of award winning beers and some really cool events. I have a feeling that your state had similar stories to tell.
And even more impressive, craft beer continued to become a part of American daily life. I may be new to craft beer but I feel that 2016 was a landmark year; could 2017 be even better?
Craft Beer Predictions 2017
Going Mainstream and Growing Pains
Is there a way to measure when something becomes mainstream? I feel that craft beer is on the verge of being mainstream and 2017 may be the year when it happens. I rarely talk to someone who has never tried a craft beer. We see it used as props on TV shows and the local news regularly covers craft beer stories. I can go to most restaurants and order a locally (or at least regionally) produced craft beer. None of this was possible in the past. It leads me to believe that craft beer is no longer a subculture or just for enthusiasts but instead a key part of our culture.
But this added attention also leads to some growing pains. Some of our favorite breweries have been acquired by the macro brew companies. And while many see that as a bad sign, I think it is just a natural part of business and shows that craft beer is the real deal. If it was just a trend, I don’t think that AB InBev would be investing. In addition, some believe that we are headed towards a “craft beer bubble” where there will be more product and breweries than the market will handle. Every industry has a bubble but I don’t think we will come anywhere close to it in 2017. However, more acquisitions will occur and more breweries will open but I am optimistic that all of this will lead to a stronger craft beer industry.
The Rise of the Neighborhood Brewery
Buying local is a trend that won’t slow down in 2017. Craft beer has benefited from this as consumers are quick to accept local products. And while national and regional breweries will continue to be strong, the coming year will show a sharp increase in the small, local brewery. By small, I mean the neighborhood brewery.
My area, Cincinnati, is seeing many of these types of breweries and other cities already have them as well. These breweries are focused on a very small geographic area, intend to sell the majority of their beer on premises and are often in an area that is easily walkable. Woodburn, Streetside, Braxton, Darkness and the soon to open Brink are all examples of this style of brewery in the Cincinnati area. I am sure many of these have aspirations to be a regional brewery one day but they know the value in being a key component to their local community.
What is remarkable is that these breweries are not just producers of craft beer but also hubs for community activity. Many open early to provide a space for customers to work, enjoy a cup of coffee and a donut. Think Starbucks but with the sweet smell of beer brewing. They hold community meetings as well as weekly activities to bring people together. Much of this is offered to help increase their reach and support their business goals but it also strengthens their community.
The modern day taproom is a hub for the community. The neighborhood brewery is used as a means to connect to each other. This localization isn’t new as this article calls it one of the major 2016 trends. But I see this trend picking up momentum in 2017 as more and more people want a neighborhood brewery.
Beer Flavors and Styles To Watch For
You can’t discuss beer style trends without talking about IPAs. We have witnessed increases in session and fruited IPAs over the past few years. So what is left for 2017?
The influx on New England IPAs.
Some listed this as a 2016 trend and that is hard to argue. Yes, many east and west coast breweries made a lot of these IPAs last year but we are just scratching the service. Most of these NE IPAs are hard to get, brewery only release, etc. In Ohio, Hoof Hearted is doing a great job with this style but there aren’t many others that are doing it. Demand and hype around this style will make it a popular beer style throughout 2017.
Barrel aged beers are also going to continue to be popular. It seems that Bourbon Barrel Aged beers aren’t going anywhere and consumers will buy them up as fast as they are made. The change in 2017 is there will be an expansion in the barrel aged category as there will be an increase in the use of rum, tequila, gin, wine and other barrels. These barrels will be used to age a wide variety of beer styles as well. I look forward to seeing more kolsch and lagers being barrel aged.
For variant flavors, I see coconut and Mexican Cake/mole being the most popular in 2017. These have been increasing in popularity and this will be the year that just about every brewery gets in on it. It seems like just yesterday that Oskar Blues Death By Coconut was flying off the shelves and the competition took notice. Check out this article that highlights some of the best coconut beers available. Be prepared because more coconut beers are on their way. In the same fashion, Mexican Cake aka mole have shown to be extremely popular. This style is a stout that feature cocoa nibs, cinnamon and peppers. While it is quite good on it’s own, many are also barrel aging it to add oak, bourbon, vanilla and other flavors.
The reality is there is no easy way to predict what will happen this year. But creating unique beer is a competitive advantage so expect your favorite breweries to do a lot of experimenting in 2017.
Cincinnati Craft Beer Market
I love living in Cincinnati and I love that our craft beer community is so strong. Historically, Cincinnati has always been a beer city and 2017 will continue that legacy.
There are already 8 breweries that are listed to open in 2017. A few more may sneak onto that list before the end of the year which means more will open this year than last. Most of what my area will see are the neighborhood breweries that I referenced earlier. I can foresee a future where every corner of Cincinnati has it’s own brewery. That is a glorious future!
Expansion is also a huge part of Cincinnati’s 2017 outlook. Rivertown, MadTree, Taft’s Ale House, Dogberry, Bad Tom and Tap and Screw have all announced expansions plans. These all include new locations that increase their production capability as well as their taproom experience. Other breweries will expand in other ways; additional canning/bottling, taproom remodels, etc.
Wrapping It Up
I feel fortunate to have started this blog in 2016 and that you are taking the time to read it. I’m not expert but instead just have a lot of passion for craft beer and the people of the industry. So in 2017, I will continue writing and learning about craft beer. I hope to get feedback to from you about how I can make it even better. I predict that I will enjoy many great beers this year and discover there is more to love than ever before. My hope is that you will do the same and maybe we will get a chance to meet at a brewery and drink a beer together.
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