By Bennett Porter
Another trip around the sun. One year ago, settling back into post-holiday normalcy, I had some time to reflect on a dramatic year of shifts in the beer industry, notably those occurring locally. Production by volume had doubled in a short five years and breweries were opening at an unprecedented pace. Our humble Midwestern market felt to be bursting at the seams. Yet another year has come and gone, and it’s tough to argue that any momentum has been lost. The term “bubble” has been uninhibitedly thrown about by craft critics for a few years now – can their unease be justified? Adolescent breweries appear busy and the beer keeps flowing. Differentiated and locale-driven business models have allowed new brewers to remain relevant amongst stiffening competition. What does 2018 have in store for the beer industry? Let’s make some predictions for the year ahead, on a micro and macro level.
- Boutique hops popularized by their use in hazy, new-school IPAs will be used to fuel a new wave of hoppy American lagers.
- Beers that were once only available in bomber format will be reintroduced as four- or six-packs, signaling a shift towards value over exclusivity.
- Lambics will achieve mainstream success. This is my boldest prediction.
Ex. Tilquin Oude Gueuze – $11.99/375ml
- Brewers will get more experimental with their cooperage by utilizing aquavit, mezcal, port, tequila, sherry, and exclusive wine barrels to impart unique characteristics into beer.
- Hazy IPAs will continue their command of sales and ratings dominance, buoying the hype and success of breweries that do them well.
Ex. Lupulin Hooey IPA – $13.99/4pk
- Most breweries will remain steadfast in their independence, while a few prominent names will succumb to the grips of big beer.
- Co-fermenting beer with grape juice and grape must will become more commonplace, further bridging the gap between the beer and wine.
- Preference for locally-produced beer will cause a few well-known regional breweries to withdraw from the Minnesota market.
- The beer mile world record will once again be broken (currently 4:33.6, held by Corey Bellemore of Canada).
- The cider selection will continue its push to overtake shelf space on the southern wall of the France 44 walk-in cooler.