It’s 2018, and everyone (including all of us at GirlsDrinkBeer) wants to know “where is the beer industry headed?” and “what’s the next hot thing?”
To quench our curiosity, we reached out to some of our industry friends (plus one of our own!) for their takes on the next big things in beer plus the trends they hope don’t make it past 2017.
Brewing Manager, Great Divide Brewing Company
I think we will see the current trends continue in that the largest breweries will find it difficult to expand and the smallest breweries that prove their quality will see large growth. In my opinion, the consumer base is irretrievably fractured in their buying habits, and brand loyalty is hard to find, which will benefit smaller, more nimble breweries. The major beer markets will see an increase in hyper-local breweries that have little to no distribution outside of their tap room.
A trend I would like to personally see is a labeling standard for hop growers and vendors. The vendors have all started putting QR codes on their labels instead of just printing the alpha acid content directly on the box. Myself and a few other brewers have been very vocal with the vendors to reverse that trend.
As far as trying to see around the corner to what the next big style will be, I am hopeful that approachably tart beers will be making a surge once the warmer months hit. Gose has already been trending up for a couple of years, but I anticipate a surge into the market with that and similar styles, especially if they are fruited.
As for trends I hope will go away, I have had no interest in pastry stouts and wouldn’t mind if they disappeared. I try to support crazy ideas because we wouldn’t have a craft beer industry if it wasn’t for a plethora of crazy ideas getting to see the light of day, but throwing pop-tarts into a style that can hide so many flaws hardly strikes me as innovation. I admit my personal bias because I also generally don’t like beers that finish too sweet, which a pastry stout will do by nature.
Brewmaster, 12 Gates Brewing Company
As brewers we often judge other breweries by their lagers. They are complex, balanced, and show technique more than other styles. There is nothing to hide behind. A great lager has a place with every meal, sport, or party. With the growing movement toward hazy, fruity, and powerful IPAs, the balance is struck with a clean German lager. There is a lot of history, pride, and techniques that make these beers great.
The other trend I foresee in 2018 is locally sourced materials. Local is big! The cherries that go into our Cherry Vanilla Wheat come from Bitner Farms up by Lake Ontario and all of our special additions in our Buffalo Breakfast Stout come from Western New York.
Tap Room Manager, Community Beer Works
I think some trends are going to stay hot like New England Style IPAs and kettle sours that are fruited or dry hopped. Dry hopped kettle sours have been some of my favorites lately, and I think milkshake and pastry beers will be a big trend in 2018. A trend I would love to see in 2018 is clean lagers. Nothing is more refreshing than sitting down with a well done lager. The problem is that they show every mistake and are hard to make well, so a lot of breweries stay away from them. But the ones that know how to make them will do really well.
One thing that can stay in 2017: bros scoring whalez to the gram (i.e., the people who don't really care about the liquid inside the package just the fact that they can take a picture of it to post on Instagram for likes). They follow trucks to be the first to get a beer then sit on it for a trade or just because they have so much beer they can't drink it all.
Founder, Women’s Craft Beer Collective
I have a feeling that many craft beer drinkers are going to have parallel feelings to mine and start to tire of overly complex brewing styles. Things like thick, creamy, fruited, lactose-sugared IPA combinations, with low bitterness, like milkshake IPAs, leavings many us longing for simplified styles like a fresh pilsner or American lager. I’ve seen many breweries perfecting their traditional lager lately!
Also, there seems to be a growing appetite for higher ABV beers, which is a contradiction to the lager cravings I’m feeling now. Obviously, there will be different times for different beer tastes.
I personally look forward to having more barrel-aged sour beers and would not miss the New England hazy IPA trend. But that does not seem to be leaving anytime soon!
Nick, Chris, Alex, and Phil
Owners/Operators, Hop Brothers
Our beer-related speculation from a hop grower’s perspective is this: 2018 will see the increased usage of hyper-local ingredients. Thanks to the Northeast Hop Alliance, the great research and testing services offered by Cornell and UVM, and the always helpful growing community, New York State hops and malt are now grown at consistently high quality. We will see an expansion of the current trend of in-state breweries using local ingredients, especially New York hops. We’d also like to see more local Belgian tripels. Keeping our fingers crossed!
Head Brewer, Sato Brewpub
The future, to me, looks hazy. Maybe a pun, maybe not. What I do know is some things will never change. Big beer will continue its assault on the craft sector, consuming as much of the craft market as it sees fit or as those holding on to craft will allow.
As a brewer, it’s strange to compare the past to how beer is now. My old man, like most peoples’ fathers, was very brand loyal, picking up a 6- or 12-pack of the same beer every Friday. Younger beer drinkers that are feeding the craft market now have the world at their fingertips. Social media is huge and dictates a lot of our daily lives. Their beer choices are also subject to this. Drinkers now are always chasing that craft beer high. So, sadly, we are seeing the death of the flagship beers—the beers a brewery produces year round to put its fingerprint on the market place. The true craft brewers are going to have to prove their versatility across styles and techniques to keep a solid foothold in an ever-changing and fickle market.
As for me, I am hoping to see a return to more traditional craft beer. Is that oxymoronic? I want to see the return of the pilsner and other clean, delicate lagers, brown and scotch ales, Belgian quads, and barleywine. And the return of the bitter IPAs that made and defined craft beer.
One thing I want to see less of isn't so much a style or kind of beer but a craft beer mindset. I hope people will seek out beer for the pursuit of flavor, quality, and enjoyment, not how rare it is. I'm hoping the uneducated, passive, craft beer truck chasers stay in 2017.
As for my brew team at Sato Brewpub, we will continue to push the bounds and limits of craft brewing. Take traditional guidelines and treat them as such. Creativity, forward thinking, and blending ingredients, techniques, and styles are the true future of craft.
In 2018, people no longer are accepting a company or organization’s word on something. They want transparency and truths behind their claims. Slapping the word “craft” on a beer is simply not enough for consumers anymore. With craft breweries being purchased left and right, purchasers want reassurance that their dollars are going into the right hands. The Brewers Association has made it easier for consumers to differentiate which breweries are truly craft by releasing the Independent Craft Brewers Seal. With the majority of craft breweries adopting the seal, it’s safe to say they’re listening to what consumers find important.
In line with consumers wanting their dollars to go to good use, I think we’ll see more breweries supporting social issues. It seems like our political climate has inspired people to become more involved with causes that are important to them. Following Hurricane Irma, breweries in Florida (Cigar City Brewing Co., Coppertail Brewing Co., Green Bench Brewing, and Biscayne Brewing Co. to name a few) helped relief efforts by supplying potable water and donating beer proceeds. In response to California’s wildfires, breweries such as Russian River and Boneyard Beer have stepped up with contributing proceeds to victims. You can even get line line-cutting privileges to the 2018 Pliny the Younger release by donating $25 to the cause. Talk about a win-win!