2016 Should be an Incredibly Interesting Year in the World of Beer
I want to apologize to all the readers for the radio silence over the holiday and new year. I recently started a brand new full-time position with Guinness on their new Brewery Ambassador program here in the states, and it's been quite a month. That being said, I'm endeavoring to return to a more consistent publishing schedule for The Brew Enthusiast, along with a veritable heap of new brewery features, industry highlights, and (I would like to think) pithy, topical, and insightful conversations about the past, present, and future of our favorite beverage.
Enough chatter. Here's a short list of my predictions for what will certainly be another monumental year in beer:
1. The rhetoric around "craft beer" will change. Instead, the industry will move the conversation to "great beer".
I really love craft beer. It's definitive and relatively explicit in its intention. Or rather...it provides a distinctly different approach to the "craft" of good beer in comparison to the large international producers of yellow lager. It's a beautiful thing. But as we continue to globalize our beer culture, the idea that a "craft beer" is the only lens through which we define a well-made product will change. Great beer is well made, by people who love great beer, and are willing to invest in the liquid itself with as many resources as they invest in the rest of the business to support that liquid in the market. We will start to live in a society of well-crafted great beer, instead of simply "craft beer" for the sake of a few pre-defined, and marginally tired, bullet points focused on local, small, etc.
Local and small is a great approach, don't get me wrong, but it just doesn't cut the mustard when we talk about the modern "great beer" industry in 2016.
2. This is a softball, but AB/Inbev/SAB/Miller/Allthebeerintheworldpractically is purposefully muddling the waters, blurring the perception of what makes something a corporate beer or a great local beer or whatever.
Mark my words, Global Beer Inc. (aka this new mega-corp mentioned above) is going to buy a craft brewery in every state in our great nation (at the very least), and they've got enough money to do that 10 times over. They will never get their market share back on core brands like Budweiser Light, and they know it, so they're taking a different tact. Pretty soon, the conversation amongst the masses will grow weary of getting nitpicky about a company that's "independently owned" and "local" and whatever else you use can to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of beer quality. This dovetails with my point above, and their strategy is somewhat brilliant in that regard. Beer festivals will soon be full of beer companies owned by the same mega-brewer, but you won't care. As long as they present themselves as a differentiated, storied, tried and true craft brewery, you'll drink it and that will be that. I have nothing personal against AB/Inbev/SAB/Whateverthey'recall, and I admire they're tenacity, but I rue the day when we won't be able to draw a clear distinction between those that brew for a purpose (and profits, obviously), and those that brew for the sole purpose of shareholder value. There are shades of gray all over the place, but it's going to happen.
3. In complete contradiction to point #2, local beer will obviously continue to gain momentum as well. Educated palates will flourish, and we will have so much great beer in this country that I could just squeal with excitement. In fact, I just did. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee...
My girlfriend just let me buy a new beer fridge, as I had monopolized the space in our regular fridge, and it's so full of fun bottles of fresh stout, IPA, pils, and shwartzbier that I'm slightly giddy thinking about it. We have over 4200 breweries in this country now, and 97% of them independently run by people who really f#$king love great beer. All that being said, the outlet for creative, quality, innovative, and delicious is getting wider by the day, and I'm so proud to be apart of an industry that can embrace this sort of approach to business, community, and storytelling. I have more intelligent conversations every day with folks in the local pub when I ask them about why they like beer. They like it for flavor, and locality, and maybe because they know the owner, or maybe because they grew up drinking it. People are now growing up drinking craft beer. What a fascinating modern age we live in.
4. Technology is going to make a big leap forward, for the brewing industry and even more for the consumer.
Digitized beer lists, the ubiquity of quality beer websites and podcasts, fun phone apps that provide more than a rating system, and genuine fascination in the story behind the product will spur on a new wave of tech focused around the experience. I'm being purposefully vague here, as I have some thoughts as to what will happen, but beer companies will look to these avenues to modernize their business and bring fresh eyes to their liquid.
5. Beer events will predominately have a culinary angle to them. Which is a very good thing.
I'm not talking about beer festivals with a couple food trucks loitering in the background. I'm talking events focused around the combination of beer and good, treating beer like the quintessential culinary product that it is. We bring food to the table, we bring wine to the table, and like never before, we will bring beer to the table. You'll more breweries participating in third wave, unique, and people focused food events (beer dinners, tours, and the like) that will help to elevate beer's already revered status to the point of complete global drinks domination. It's artistic, delicious, and completely the coolest thing ever.
A short list, but worthy of a quick perusal. Look for upcoming features from Renegade Brewing Company in Buffalo, NY, along with a few guest posts and (hopefully) our first beer event hosted by The Brew Enthusiast!
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