Our beer predictions for 2016
11 January 2016, By Jonny Garrett
We’ve seen lots of predictions for the world of craft beer this year. In such a forward-looking industry it’s healthy that we prefer to look to the future rather than dwell on the past.
But predicting what’s going to happen when things move so fast is almost impossible. All we can do is look at what has come before and extrapolate, and having the data from a microcosm of the beer industry means we’re well placed to make a few guesses. Any thoughts or beers you want to see on Beer Merchants? Tweet us or hit us up on Facebook.
Hops remain top
First, it’s plain to see that sessionable hoppy beers are the growth area. They were last year, they will be this year, and in a decade’s time they will be too. Our biggest sellers of the year – Kona Big Wave and Beavertown Neck Oil – account for one in every 10 beers we sell and both more than doubled in sales compared to 2014.
This year we expect to see lots more breweries launching or perfecting their session IPAs, pale ales and hoppy reds. Camden Town Brewery announced they will be hopping up their pale ale, Vocation’s Pride & Joy was one of our beers of the year, and Tiny Rebel Cwtch won Champion Beer of Britain. And then became impossible to get hold of, of course.
Lager’s time is coming
All that said though, we’re expecting a big growth in good lager too as craft shakes off its high ABV reputation. For too long this style has been neglected or ignored by beer lovers. True, a bad lager can be nasty and a bland one even worse. But made well they are some of the most drinkable, satisfying and full flavoured beers on earth. Kona Longboard and Augustiner Helles both make our top 10 sellers, with Paulaner Munich Hell not far behind. But British lagers, so far, haven’t been up to scratch.
Brewdog’s This. Is. Lager. was withdrawn quickly when the founders decided it wasn’t tasty enough and none of the other bigger craft brewers have a core lager worth writing home about. Cloudwater have done two really good lagers though, while Camden have had great growth and Fourpure Pils is still a great beer, but we’re always on the look out for more.
Showing people that only bland lager is bland is a really important message we always try to get across. Hopefully our top tip for new breweries this year, Alex Troncosco’s Lost & Grounded, might help out the UK. He’s the man who invented IHL and we have really high hopes for his lager-focused brewery near Bristol. Either way, we should never write lager off, and the US has just seen a huge increase in breweries producing lagers.
Belgium’s on the way back
On top of starting to work with Beersel and closer with Lindemans, we’ve also discovered some fantastic new Belgian breweries this year, which we will start getting in throughout the next few months. The Belgian microscene is really taking off there, and we’re expecting great things from Brussels Beer Project, Toye, Alvinne and Vezet. These guys are taking the traditions of Belgium and adding everything they have learnt from escaping the exciting but introspective Belgian brewing scene. Expect hops, kettle sours, homebuilt breweries and endless specials.
The only way is up
Last year was remarkable for lots of reasons, but 2015 finished with one word on every beer lover’s lips: takeovers. AB Inbev in particular was very active in the craft beer scene, buying up US and UK breweries as well as setting up their own distribution arm in the UK. Ballast Point was, perhaps, the most shocking but that’s not to say that Camden, Meantime, Elysian and Firestone Walker didn’t take us by surprise.
There was a lot of debate about where this is a good thing or not and to be frank only time will tell. What we don’t want is the same kind of brewery consolidation that happened in the 1970s, when local independent businesses were mostly swallowed up by regional brewers. That led to the homogenisation of beer and the near extinction of good, local beer. We’re a long way from that though and we will always support good beer, wherever it comes from.