As a new year rolls around, it’s time for beer bloggers to dust off their crystal ball and give their take on what to expect in the year ahead. I’ve penned a few quick thoughts on some of the key things I expect we will see in 2017.
Many talk about which beer styles they expect to see emerge and dominate, which I believe is a fool’s errand. The beauty of the craft beer scene is the variety that breweries continue to deliver. Whether its traditional styles, lagers, low ABV, high ABV, murk bombs, sour beers, barrel aged beers, fruity beers – there exists great examples already available to consumers with many more to come.
One trend we will see is that wood-aged sours, wild, mixed and spontaneous fermentations will get greater attention. Burning Sky have taken delivery of a coolship, thought to be the first in the UK for some time. Beavertown’s Tempus project will no doubt start to see results. Cloudwater, Wild Beer Co and The Kernel have foeders that they will be playing with more and more in 2017 and BrewDog have announced plans to build a separate and segregated sour facility, Overworks, in Ellon, to be headed up by Richard Kilcullen, former head of sour production at American brewery Wicked Weed. Great news for fans of these types of beers.
If last year saw breweries scaling up, this year we will see breweries tooling up. Expect your Twitter Instagram feed filled with breweries taking delivery of whirlpools, centrifuges, lactic acid tanks, yeast propagators, canning lines (more on that later). Why? All in the name of improving quality, consistency and efficiency. This is important for the breweries as with all the choice out there, drinker’s tolerance for a beer that is not quite up to snuff is wearing thin.
Craft beer festivals are mirroring the growth of the breweries they promote – scaling up and tooling up. The traditional craft beer festival catered for beer geeks, bringing together a select number of breweries who usually bring key personnel as well as a selection of core and experimental beers. Like-minded people mill about comparing beers and using it as a chance to catch up. There remains a big place for these types of festivals, but new ones will emerge. More focused festivals on types of beers (think HopCity), regions and breweries, as well as big events targeting mainstream punters offering an experience – something millennials supposedly value above all else.
The festival making the biggest splash is The Beavertown Extravaganza (great to see that word featured here), which promises to be massive, bringing together a huge array of the world best and hippest craft brewers and will also serve at the launch of the 2016 Rainbow Project beers too. But it has caused a splash in that it will clash with the Leeds International Beer Festival. My view is that there is room for all of these festivals. While the craft beer enthusiast will struggle to attend all (maybe 2017 is the year of FOMO management for the craft beer enthusiast), it should hopefully see craft beer expand into a wider audience.
Last year saw a point of inflection in beer buying patterns in the UK with off-trade purchase of beer exceed on-trade purchase of beer for the first time. This clearly translates to a big an opportunity for brewers to focus on packaging in bottles and cans for off trade distribution. We are already seeing some trends emerge for smaller bottles (Thornbridge moved to 330ml from 500ml), bigger cans (Magic Rock have released a number of beautifully designed 500ml cans in late 2016, Cloudwater landed on 440ml cans for their move to canning) and multipacks (BrewDog sell in multipacks and I have recently seen Five Points selling their cans as six packs at OddBins in West Hampstead). And I expect to see this continue in 2017.
Whilst talking of cans, one odd trend is the 360 degree, or topless can, that London Beer Factory are currently using. Unsure how widely this one will spread.
Re-branding (Visual Identity)
In an increasingly competitive market having a distinct visual identity is one way to stand out. We have seen a number of traditional breweries re-branding in 2016 to appeal to younger, craft oriented drinkers. In 2017, I believe we will see a number of craft breweries follow the lead of Redchurch Brewery and review their visual identity. Redchurch launched a new site in Harlow, refreshed their beer recipes and brewing techniques and announced their Urban Farmhouse brewery at their existing site in Bethnal Green. This resulted in a desire for a fresh look to go with it. We’ve already seen Beavertown move away from their original ‘B in a triangle’ and go full skull in 2017. Will BrewDog continue their look as they launch in the US, the Lone Wold distillery and the Overworks sour facility? My money is to expect a new look from them this year.
2017 will be the year of merchandising. While breweries have dabbled in cheap t-shirts, badges and glassware, this year we will see more focus and quality in the merchandise breweries are willing to put their name to. Some breweries are really well positioned with a brand and visual identify that, if done well, would shine in a range of quality merchandise.
While many believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, in a competitive market, there will be winners and losers. Sadly we will see some breweries close. I would think this will likely be breweries that don’t have the resources, ability, or passion to continue. Smaller local breweries without; a taproom, strong link to their community, quality beers, ability to scale and social media presence will be most likely at risk. I don’t think we will see any large scale failures however.
Not in the traditional sense of breweries collaborating with each other, but collaborations across industries. This links to a Three Bullet Friday post I did last December. Think collaborations with coffee roasters, restaurants / chefs, sporting bodies (think local football teams, cycling brands, running clubs etc), music labels / brands / festivals (could we see a beer brewed usual wild yeasts found at Glastonbury?). This helps bring craft beer to a broader audience by looking at where beer drinkers’ interests overlap with other interests and vice versa.
That’s my views, looking forward to hearing some of yours.