For as tumultuous as 2016 was, one thing that stayed consistent throughout it all was the craft beer market. As we enter into 2017, craft beer fans and casual drinkers alike will have more choices, more breweries and more beer styles than ever to choose from. Not only does this lead to an increase of creativity among brew masters, but also a healthy dose of competition that will make sure that beer drinkers get the best product, at the best prices. 2016 was a year of consistency and I predict more of the same with a few twists along the way as the craft beer bubble continues to widen in 2017. With that, here are my 7 beer predictions as we ring in a new year:
- New styles and more experimentation:
Everyone has their favorite beer, whether it be IPAs, barrel-aged brews or anything in between. And while these hallmarks of craft beer culture will still dominate in 2017, I believe that breweries will continue to push the boundaries of what beer they can make and how they make it. I think we’ll see an influx of Saisons,
experimental lagers and a bevy of brewer collaborations that will only expand the palates of beer lovers. I also think we’ll see new brewers breaking the strains of traditional brewing and experimenting with new ways to make beer, like what recently opened Dovetail Brewery is doing with their open-air fermentation process.
- The Saturation of the IPA Market
West Coast, Imperial, New England or Belgian, pick your preference, IPAs are the star of the craft beer show and both brewers and beer fans alike know it. Brewers depend on IPAs not only for their popularity but also for their ability to drive new craft beer adventurers into their pubs and brew halls. IPAs are known for their strong taste and easy drinkability, but there gets to be a time when the supply has caught up to the demand, and I think that time is now. And while I still think that IPAs will dominate 2017 due to the overwhelmingly momentum that style has, I do think that we’ll see less variations and new releases in the IPA realm in this year compared to in previous years.
- More partial buyouts
In my mind, big corporation buyouts are a necessary by-product of the craft beer scene. As the popularity of craft breweries continued to rise and start to eat up market share, it only made sense that this would get the attention of the big boys in the beer market. In 2016, we saw a few notable partial buyouts, including of Texas craft beer stalwarts Revolver Brewing and Karbach Brewing Co and I expect this trend to continue nationwide in 2017. The main reason for this is because these craft breweries still get to retain an air of independence and individuality to them, while also receiving access to distribution lines that let them expand at an even faster rate. One buyout I can see happening in 2017 is of one my favorite Minnesota brew spots, Surly.
- More Cans
2016 was a big year for beer cans as some major breweries decided to devote production lines to this smaller beer unit instead of the traditional bottle. Some of the ones I was most excited about included Lagunitas’ can-only 12th of Never Ale, Bell’s’ Hopslam cans and New Glarus making the huge shift to putting two of their hallmark beers: Moon Man and Spotted Cow, into cans. And while 2016 was big, I predict that 2017 will be huge for cans as breweries nationwide continue to recognize the profitability and portability that canning their beers offer.
- Beer Festivals will get bigger
As you might’ve read from my review of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp, beer festivals are a blast. After experiencing my first one, I am confident that the popularity of beer camps will only increase and expand as they offer first time craft beer drinkers a fun way to enjoy all of the culture that the craft beer scene has to offer, and for a pretty reasonable price as well. Plus, these types of festivals expand the horizons of beer fans to new breweries, back stories and brewers that they might not get when exploring their local tap room. So, whether it be GABF, Brewmasters Craft Beer Fest or a bevy of others, I think we’ll see more people heading to more beer festivals in 2017.
- A New Hop will Take Center Stage
A good indicator to show America’s love of hoppy beers is how many hops were produced– and 2016 saw a HUGE increase. According to The Department of Agriculture, farmers harvested 87.1 million pounds of hops in 2016, an 8.3 million pound increase from last year – which is a five year high. Clearly hops are in high-demand, but demand for two hops in particular are still the highest, with Cascade and Centennial taking the top two spots respectively for their eighth year running. The one hop I think is poised for a big 2017 is positioned at #5 most used: Citra. Why? People love fruit-forward IPAs and other beer varieties, and using Citra hops is one of the best ways to get this fruity flavor. Look out for this hop in 2017!
- Craft Beer will continue to dominate
The beer market in America is a big one, with the craft beer portion continuing to gain momentum in 2016. Two notable stats that I think illustrate the potential of the craft beer industry moving forward: 8% segment increase in small & independent brewers and a 16% increase in craft beer exports. This tells me that craft beer continues to win the hearts of Americans domestically while also expanding to every border of the earth – and I think this trend is only set to continue in 2017.
Cheers to a happy, healthy, and hopefully beer-filled 2017!
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