The world of craft beer has long gone mainstream. Now, your uncle shows up to family cookouts with a cooler full of craft beers, and pushes his favorites on everyone to try. Or maybe you’re the uncle, (or aunt) good on you! So how does craft beer continue to grow and excite beer drinkers? Let’s take a look at some of the 2018 beer trends you’ll be seeing more of.
Local and Regional is the Path to Growth
With the consolidation of the beer market reaching new levels with the merger of AB InBev and SABMiller in 2016, the overwhelming majority of the beer market is in the control of only a few sellers. It’s incredible, really, to see that level of consolidation.
Jeff Spross from The Week illustrates just how small the beer market is:
As recently as 2000, the U.S. beer market had 22 major players….
Last year, AB InBev closed its merger with SABMiller. The latter company had to sell its stake in MillerCoors back to Molson Coors to make regulators happy. But even then, once AB InBev had acquired its former competitor, the newly created beer behemoth accounted for 30 percent of world market volume, and 60 percent of the world market’s profits all by itself. Meanwhile, the Molson Coors and AB InBev one-two punch controlled 90 percent of America’s domestic beer production.
That’s nuts. And with slim market availability, it means that the future of craft beer will be played on the local and regional stage. This means more local brewers and small shops must be happy to cater to a limited market and become a big player on the community level. It also means that local restaurants and beer retailers will have to work with local brewers in order for small breweries to have success. Beer shelves are competitive spaces, so local bars and restaurants provide the best entry for upstart brewers to build a presence in their local scene.
Local ingredients, local inspiration, local styles of beer. Everyone is going to be going loco with local. With regional identity already playing a big part in craft beers’ charm and success, notions of what it means to be local will become more incorporated into the actual production of beers. Not just their branding.
Take for example, the growth of regional beers like the New England style IPA. This style bucks the conventions of mega-bitter IPAs that became intrinsically linked with California brewers. Known for it’s hazy appearance and creamy mouthfeel, it’s made an identity out of being softer and fruitier than most other IPAs.
Sour Mash Up
Sour beers and fruit beers continue to grow in popularity. That trend will continue to grow as more brewers work with wild yeasts. The local focus of craft beer will usher in more sour beers, as smaller breweries will be able to focus on specific styles of beer for smaller markets without the need to scale up production and distribution.
Sour beers have incorporated fruits for centuries in Europe. U.S. brewers have caught on and will continue to use fruit in sour styles like Gose that are prime to mix sweeter notes with pucker-y sour hits. Another style that is set to be on the rise is the dry-hopped sour beer, which adds some of the American hops bite so revered by craft beer drinkers.
European Invasion Expands
Western Europe is the holy land for beer nerds. From German traditions to breweries tucked away on winding medieval streets in Belgium, brewers have always been fascinated by the beers created by their European forebears.
That influence will continue to grow. 2016 and 2017 brought an influx of craft lagers to the forefront of craft beer. These styles took inspiration more from German kölsch and pilsner beers than mass-produced American lagers. In 2018, look for beers that mimic styles with more depth than lagers, but still offer a smooth and easy drinking experience.
A Touch of Sweeter Styles
Altbier is a brown ale style that is beginning to catch on in the states. Goose Island just released a limited release altbier this fall. Though similar in style, the name altbier makes it seem more unique than the mundane brown ale name.
Another euro-style beer catching on is Bière de Garde, a medium bodied beer with toasted sweetness balanced by mild hops. Whiner Beer Co. in Chicago has a Bière de Garde in their main product line, Rubrique A Brac, that is described as a dry-hopped wild Biére de Garde. The inclusion of dry hopped production and wild yeast shows the potential for mashing up sour techniques with styles that aren’t traditionally sour.
Session Beers in Favor
Craft drinkers are still interested in lower-ABV options. That’s apparent from the rise of craft lagers. The influx of session-IPAs like Founder’s All Day IPA is another notch in the belt of more approachable beers.