It’s been a real wacky year in craft beer. We saw ABI chill out on acquisitions, the haze craze is still in full swing, as are fruited wheat ales and pastry stouts. We’ve seen the bigger guys scramble to maintain market share while all these shifts in habits rapidly change. Here are my predictions for 2019. Some may say these are a given, some may say no way, but regardless, this is what I think will happen in the 2019 calendar year.
Small Brewery gets stung by IP law
If you haven’t been paying attention, the smallest of craft breweries have been “paying homage” to 80s and 90s nostalgia with brightly labeled cans of beer using Nintendo, Sega, children’s cereal, cartoons, sports team likenesses and familiar hip hop artist branding. There are two groups of people that have weighed in on this very noticeable trend: those who gobble it up and those who detest the blatant intellectual property theft. While there have been some cease and desist letters, as far as I can tell, we haven’t seen any bloodshed yet. Our very own Christopher Barnes weighs in on this.
A small brewery will be made an example of by a significant rights holder and it will put them out of business.
At the same time, a brewery with money will start using retro IP
The Super Mario and Ninja Turtle beer labels have not gone unnoticed by the bigger, distributed craft brewers. While some random small brewery is going to get popped for their 2Pac Pastry Stout, a brewery with decent marketing funds will team up with a brand to present a retro labeled beer series.
Prediction: A medium-sized, distributed craft brewery will team up with an entertainment company with retro intellectual property and cash in on those fond memories.
Death of the all-sour house
I’ve noticed a decline in popularity of wood aged, Belgian-inspired sour ales here in Southern California, directly related to the rise in popularity of the canned hazy IPA and the bottled adjunct stout. I would like to imagine it’s not just this market. While the style of beer is one of my favorites, I don’t believe a small brewery can stay as healthy as they like with only sour ales, mixed fermentation and tart saisons. One of my favorite breweries in the world, Sante Adairius, has been flirting with packaged IPAs, as an example of market pressures.
: An all-sour house like Jester King and or The Rare Barrel will be pressured into diversifying into IPA and possibly stout production.
CanArchy marches on
While ABI took a chill pill this year in swooping up regional craft breweries, CanArchy was on a tear, strategically pushing Cigar City products all over the map, and planted their feet in Los Angeles California with the induction of Three Weavers Brewing.
CanArchy adds a Pacific Northwest brewery to their family. There is already built in synergy from Oskar Blues’ outdoor lifestyle theme. One brewery that looks like a good fit would be Fremont Brewing, as they have ramped up their canning production in the last two years.
RIP Brut IPA
Rumblings came out of Northern California this past spring
as Social Kitchen and Brewery
unveiled a fun experiment making a bone dry, effervescent IPA that resembles a glass of champagne. Immediately coined as Brut IPA, this new delicious gimmick was touted as the “anti-hazy” IPA that would help bring West Coast IPA back into fashion. Slowly, breweries from west to east began whipping up a batch of this beer. Personally, I’ve enjoyed a few, ones that hit the mark closest to champagne, and have had a few that have left an unpleasant vegetal bitterness on my mid palate. By mid 2019, it will be safe to say that every brewery will have made an attempt at brewing this beer with varying success. When a brewer misses the mark on this beer, it’s pretty bad. We’ve seen murky, bright yellow versions, we’ve tasted ones riddled with diacetyl, and ones that were over dry hopped and have been unpleasantly sharp.
: Get a spot at the IPA graveyard, for better or worse, Brut IPA will lay next to the Black, White and Red IPA.
Hard Root Beer Hard Seltzer
About three years ago, ‘Not Your Father’s Root Beer’ took the world by storm, but it was a storm that passed as quickly as it came. I believe when the hard root beer trend came, breweries wanted to capture the business of the non-beer drinker alongside the beer aficionado. Fast forward to 2018, and a similar yet different situation is happening. Breweries again are trying to capture the dollar of the non-beer drinker, this time it’s to utilize tank space and keep cash flow steady in a stagnant market or a market with breweries that over extended themselves in a bullish market years prior.
Much like the hard root beer fad, hard seltzer is not the answer for picking up production slack and will go away quickly.
Shift back to bottle shops/retailers
While the haze craze and enjoyers of pastry stout has attracted new, younger beer drinkers, it has done so at the detriment to the retail scene. We are starting to notice that the current generation of people getting in line multiple times a week for cans of IPA is slightly dwindling. There are also so many great options available at every level of craft, so much so that if one is in it for the enjoyment of the beverage, and not a money making side hustle, that good beer can be gotten cheaper and easier at the store.
Prediction: While lining up for beer will not go completely go away, this generation of beer drinkers will grow up a little and begin buying beer at the store for the their daily beer drinking purchases.
(All views expressed in this blog post belong to The Full Pint, not Zink Distributing)