Another year is coming to an end. While it is bittersweet to look back at the past year, it can be a lot of fun to look forward at the coming year. So just like I did last year, I’m going to make some Craft Beer Predictions for 2018.
Let’s start off by quickly reviewing my predictions from last year. Let’s just say I didn’t do that great.
Mainstream – I predicted that craft beer would take a giant leap in relevance to the average person. And while most are aware of craft beer, I don’t think we’ve hit the tipping point quite yet. I feel that the general public see craft beer as a fad or hobby. We’ve got some more work to do here.
Neighborhood Brewery – In Cincinnati, I believe that the future of neighborhood breweries is strong. And when I talk to those in other areas, they tell me the same. While many breweries will strive to grow into regional breweries, many realize that winning in their neighborhood is most important and can sustain them into the future.
Beer Styles / Flavors – I predicted that New Engalnd IPAs would continue to be the trendiest beer style and that couldn’t be more true. But I also said that we would see barrel-aged beers from spirits other than bourbon (rum, tequilla) and that Mexican Cake and Coconut variants would increase. I think I missed the mark on those.
So what about 2018? Let’s take a look at what the following year may bring to craft beer.
Beer Styles And Flavors
This may be the hardest area to predict as trends can come and go quickly. Many thought the New England IPA would have come and gone by now but it’s still going strong.
So for 2018, I want to be bold but also practical in my craft beer predictions.
New England IPAs
First off, New England IPAs are not going anywhere. As long as breweries are able to brew, can and sell out this style; they will continue to make them.
More breweries will jump on the trend. But many will struggle to make high quality versions. Those that make the best will continue to see huge demand for their NE IPAs.
Look for large breweries to get into this trend as well; Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams, etc. 2018 may be the year for the mass produced NE IPA. They recognize the potential but only time will tell if they can execute.
There will also be a divide between the “old school” versions like Heady Topper and the “new school” ones that Other Half, Monkish, etc make. The old version aren’t as hazy and have a touch of bitterness. The new ones are incredibly hazy, sweet, and have nearly no bitterness.
Look for a future articles where I dive into this topic even more. Subscribe to ensure you don’t miss it.
I wrote about it months ago, lagers are the next big thing in craft beer. More beer drinkers are moving over to the craft beer world and many of them prefer lagers. It’s what they have been drinking for decades. So lager production by craft breweries will increase in 2018.
Every year, someone says it will be the year of the sour beer. Then the year goes by and sour beers continue to be a niche product in the craft beer world.
And I am not going to predict that 2018 will be the year of the sour beer. But I will predict that kettle sours will continue to grow rapidly in popularity. Seems like these beers are gaining some momentum; 2018 could be the year that they break out.
However, traditional sours will remain a niche product in the craft beer industry. I love them but the flavor isn’t for everyone.
Buying In Bulk
Historically, beer drinkers had a “go-to” beer that they drank consistently. They’d buy a large case of it and drink that same beer day after day. These were almost always macro lagers like Bud Light, Miler Lite, etc.
Craft beer drinkers often do not drink beer in this way. They like variety so buying anything more than a six pack has never made sense. For me, I buy more single bottles/cans than anything else. I love getting to try new beer.
But I think there is a shift happening, craft beer drinkers are starting to mature a little and have found their “go-to” beers.
Many breweries have already started to create larger packs (12, 15, etc) and I think we will see many more do this in 2018. These larger packs are often sold at a better price point and help the brewery move more volume.
It’s also a sign of consumers starting to have some loyalty which isn’t something craft beer fans have been great at so far.
Macro Leveraging “Craft”
It’s no secret that macro beer has upset the craft beer world quite a few times. Every time a craft brand sells to a conglomerate, we find ourselves distraught and claiming that we will never drink their beer again.
But owning these craft brands is just part of their strategy to protect and grow this market share. Much like how Goose Island can be found just about everywhere, we will see their other craft brands get marketed in a big way.
They have the ability to scale production, distribute and market any brand nationwide. And most venues, retailers, etc are happy to sell whatever beer that is pitched to them by their biggest supplier.
The problem is there is only so much retail shelf space and so many tap handles. Capturing this limited space is one of their primary objectives. They want their “craft” brands to dominate and severely limited the space for true craft beer.
The battle for shelf space is going to heat up in 2018.
In addition, look for AB InBev’s marketing to continue to create divides. For example, the popular “Dilly, Dilly” commercial pokes fun at craft beer. Their goal is to separate the macro beer drinker from the craft beer drinker. Then they can more effectively market to the two groups separately.
Less Acquisitions, More Investors
AB InBev has announced that they are done acquiring craft breweries. Instead they are focusing on the brands they own as well as creating new ones.
I can’t tell you if that is the truth or not but what I can tell you is there will still be some interesting business maneuvers in 2018.
Just recently, we saw Avery Brewing sell 30% of their company to Mahou San Miguel; the same company that is invested in Founders Brewing.
Investments like these are what I believe we will see more of in 2018.
Regional breweries realize that fast growth is needed to stay competitive and to do that they need more capital and wider distribution. More or less, they are in a race to scale faster than other breweries of the same size.
This model of increasing distribution and resources is also quite attractive to breweries and I can see others doing the same in 2018.
The point is craft beer is highly competitive. As much as brewers love working with each other, they also realize there is only so much market share to go around. Those that are able to make the right business decisions and scale quickly will secure their future.
Other Craft Beer Predictions
It’s not easy to try to predict what will happen in the craft beer world. While I write about craft beer, I do not work in the industry so I don’t always have the insight needed to see what’s coming next.
In addition, the consumer gets to decide what is successful. If we all decide that Kolsch is the greatest style ever, then that is what breweries will make and focus on.
Here’s some other predictions that I think we will see this year (or maybe the following year):
- Price Wars – Craft beer isn’t cheap. I think many larger breweries will start to sell certain styles at a lower cost to attract a wider range of customer.
- Law Changes – Many states require the use of a distributor. Craft breweries will work hard to get those laws changed and allow them to self-distribute.
- Multi-Site Breweries – I believe that many breweries will see value in opening up multiple small breweries rather than one large one. Some have already started trying this model and I think many others will grow be adding new locations rather than expanding their current one.
Who knows what 2018 will really look like? Regardless, I know that I’ll continue to enjoy craft beer. And I think it’s safe to assume that you’ll be doing the same.
What Do You Think Will Happen In The Craft Beer World In 2018?