The Future of Beer

Beer on table

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Last weekend was the annual Northern Virginia Summer BeerFest. For the record, I’ve only been to one of these and wasn’t able to make it to this one due to my cousin’s wedding. But I asked my friend Brad about it and his first comment was, “There were so many ciders.” Then I went off on a tangent of what I see coming up in the next couple years in the craft beverage industry. I thought it would be fun to share with you what I think and get your insights on the matter too.

Note: I have absolutely zero hard facts or statistics to back any of this up. These thoughts are purely from my observation of what I see on the shelves, check-ins on Untappd and read about on Twitter and other blogs.

Pre-2014: All Hail King IPA

I’m calling the period from let’s say January 1st 2012-December 31st 2013 the “rise of the IPA.” Give us more hops! Now all these IPAs have (over)saturated the market and there needed to be a shift.

2014: Diversify Market and Satisfy Market

There are a lot of craft beer rookies out there, and it’s cool if you are one and thank you for your readership. I love that you want to enjoy IPAs. Breweries are pumping out less hoppy and less bodied IPAs in the form of Session IPAs for this growing demographic. It’s like an “IPA Lite” and yes, it will grow the craft beer market despite frustrations from many craft beer veterans hating the style.

If you are a craft beer rookie there are so many great Pale Ales out there for you to cut your teeth on. Start there and build your palate up to IPAs.

Face it, craft beer is still a male-dominated demographic. Most of those males are probably married and in their 30s or 40s. How do you get married men to be able to go events and drop money on “frivolous” things like beer? Make sure their wives are pleased. That’s where ciders come in. Ciders are not a “girls’ drinks” but the market and marketers say so. And as much as my wife enjoys beers she’ll pick a cider over a beer most times. I went to the beer festival mentioned above two years ago and there were two cideries. According to my friend there were at least eight (sorry I don’t feel like researching the exact number. If you were there or know please share in the comments section!). That’s 4x as many cideries in just two years. I’m not shocked by this number. My wife having 16 cider options (two from each cidery) instead of four at a beer fest where I have 100+ beer options will make her more apt to go back next year. More craft beer drinkers, who are majority male, means more ciders.

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about why I do and don’t want more people to like craft beer. I believe there are a few longtime craft beer drinkers that secretly hate the influx of new blood that crowd the brewpubs and make the availability of special beers scarce. This post isn’t about whether the growth is good or not (IMO new drinkers = more breweries = more beer) but about the trends I’m predicting. What is the veteran craft beer drinker to do? Drink something all these new drinkers won’t – Sours.

A few months ago at SAVOR, possibly the greatest beer gathering on earth, there were more Sours than I’ve ever seen in one place. I’d like to think that SAVOR is ahead of the curve when it comes to the craft beer market. Sours have the potential to keep the base happy because it’s such an untapped market. I bet you a local brewpub near you right now is messing with crafting a Sour when they never have had one available before.

2015: More Ciders, Lower ABV and Craft Whiskey

Next year I’m predicting three things will happen. First, we’re going to see more ciders. The ciders from the beer fest will start making their way to the shelves, especially once spring and summer hit next year.

Looking into the crystal ball I see more lower-ABV beers. I’m more hoping for this one than actually think it’ll happen. Why drink three 8.5% ABV IPAs and a glass of water over three hours in order to drive home when you could have six 3.8% beers in the same timeframe? You get to enjoy twice as much beer and the only difference is you may have to find the restroom more often.

Note: This website in no way promotes drinking and driving. Always always always be responsible and get someone else to drive if you have been drinking.

Lastly in the year 2015 I think craft whiskey is going to start infiltrating the craft beer demographic. Why? I’m seeing more blogs feature them, more buzz online, more bottles on bar shelves and more local distilleries. I can also see myself enjoying this so I wouldn’t mind. Whiskey is the one spirit I’ll drink instead of a beer on occasion.

2016: The Rise of Mead

Those pesky craft beer rookies will eventually overrun sours too so where will we turn? Mead. Confession: I’ve never had mead (and I really want to!). This honey-wine will be the last great frontier for craft beer veterans.

The price point will keep all but those who really want it away. From my limited mead knowledge it is so pricy because honey is expensive and it can take years to make. A scarce, tasty, high-priced commodity? Sounds like something a craft beer drinker would enjoy.

Oh and guess what? There was one meadery at the beer fest this year too. Just a hunch that there will be two or three next summer…

Your vision of the future

I gave you my vision of the future and now it’s time to share yours. What do you think the next beer trend will be? Facts, no facts, it doesn’t matter. Share your thoughts below!

Do you know someone who wants a say as to where the craft beer market is headed? Go ahead and send him or her this post and let’s see what they have to say too. We can only change the market by letting our voices be heard.

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11 thoughts on “The Future of Beer

  1. I completely agree except for the meads. I think we’re many years away from meads moving being renaissance festivals. Maybe after ciders have hit peak saturation will we begin to see meads swing up. I feel this for a few reasons.

    Primarily is there intense sweetness. Folks currently seem crazed for flavors we’re unfamiliar with, hence the bitter IPAs and puckering sours. I feel many folks aren’t read to rush back into sweet tasting beverages that make Coca-Cola seem like it could use more sugar.

    Next to that very few people currently make meads and I think that it may require a different license from beer/cider. I think legally meads may fall into the wine category. I could be totally wrong here but do recall hearing that from Cincinnati’s local winery/meadery upstairs/brewery downstairs combo (the brewery cleverly being called Cellar Dewller)

    Thirdly, there is this massive decline in bee population that will serve to drive up the price of honey and in-turn the price of mead. Plus at the rate this decline is going there will be NO honey in more than a few years time.

    I think/hope that 2015 and 2016 will see a larger rise in sours and hopefully a growth in craft lagers… wait for more on that from me later this week or early next.

  2. Love the predictions! I’d actually say pre-2013 (rather than 2014) as the All Hail King IPA – while IPA was still dominant in 2014, the diversification of styles had already well an truly started and the king was well and truly in decline.

    My thinking is we’re going to see a rise in lagers and entry level sours, saisons, and other interesting styles. Lagers not only for the novice, but also for the veteran. While a lot of hop-heads love the robust, obvious flavour of a big IPA, these people were once novices too, and it’s a good beer for an unrefined palate (don’t get me wrong, it’s a good beer for a refined palate as well). I think now that there are a lot more refined palates out there, we’ll see more subtle flavours.

    In regards to the sours and other interests, a lot of breweries are trying the more extreme end of things, but many many stream craft beer lovers don’t quite get it yet. I’d like to see some more laid back sours to introduce everyone’s palate to the style, and then ramp it up over the years.

  3. Agree with cider. My friend Patrick started a beer blog but soon jumped over to ciders. There’s a huge (relatively speaking) ground swell in that market that seems to already be nipping at the alcopop market. Added market bonus – it’s glutton free.

    I love mead, but sadly have to agree with Tom on this one. I don’t think there will ever be a big enough market to grow it like craft beer and cider and if they do, will we be able to meet the demand? Most meads I can think of (I just did a mead tasting with my son so it’s still fresh in my mind) around here run say, 18-20$. As honey production goes down, and sadly it will, it might end up pricing itself off the shelves.

    I would add micro-distilleries to my list as well. We already have two in Delaware and they’re basically following the small craft brewery model. Small batches, multiple diverse products, flavored spirits; I think you’ll see growth there with things like gins and vodkas, not just whiskey.

    Good thoughts. You should keep in mind to revisit post in a year’s time and see how well your predictions pan out.

    • Didn’t realize Delaware was big enough for TWO distilleries! Just kidding. Have you been out there yet? There’s one in my county and I’m positive some more are in the works.

      There’s a fair amount of cideries in Virginia already. Even last summer I went on a cidery tour and hit up three in an afternoon that are in a close proximity to of Charlottesville.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ed!

      • Yeah, we got one up north and one down south. If someone opens one up in the middle I think we’ll have things covered.

        I haven’t been to the one closest to me yet. But they have frequent bottling parties that I’ve been tempted to attend.

        Oh my friend would have loved to be on that tour with you. He has his blog (Crafty and the Beast) as well as editing the Cider Nation blog and hosting #CiderChat on Twitter. He was a really great beer guy, but we lost him to the apple side.

        Sadly the closest thing we have is a winery in MD that makes a cider from apples they get from here in DE. Good stuff, but not like you have it in VA

  4. I think Saison’s are going to be the flavor of the minute. It seems like I can’t swing a bag of hammers without hitting a new one these days, and it’s such a broad flavor profile, it brings a lot to the table.

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