Ready for Another Roaring 20’s?


So here we are about to start a new decade. Considering we’re coming out of what
could easily be called the “Thriving Teens” can this upcoming decade be half as
exciting as this past one or maybe more??

Think back to the start of 2010, there were approximately 1,900 craft breweries,
which includes the sub categories of regional, micro, brewpub and contract. With
7,500+ now that’s an amazing 400% growth in a decade. No one in their right mind
would have ever predicted such a large increase. We do need to take into account
that our economy took a major hit the last few years of the previous decade and craft
beer growth was definitely slowed and although some new breweries were still
opening, many were also closing. In 2010 the economy was improving and there
were 500+ breweries in planning which jumped to 900+ in 2011 and well that 900
somehow morphed into 5000+ over ten years. So the economy is important; we’re all
much more willing to spend more on a nicer car or a craft beer when we have a job
and money in our pocket! The stock market was a down then up roller coaster in
2009 but in the past decade has increased almost 300%. So yes, craft beer’s vast
growth spurt this decade does parallel a good economy.

Let’s not underestimate the whole “farm to table” freshness movement either. Eating
fresher foods usually taste better and are better for you. Drinking a beer made
locally and supporting local businesses has become an important staple in our
growth also.

So why wouldn’t this just continue to grow? Well we can’t see another 400% increase,
it’s just the law of large numbers, but could we see a 100% increase to 15,000 in ten
years? First we would have to have a continuing good and growing economy. We’ve
seen a few small selloffs but no bear market this past decade and most economists
would say it’s not if but when that happens. And when that happens craft beer will be
a one of the industries hurt so that will wean out the weak and slow growth. Laws
make a difference also but it’s difficult to see states opening up craft brewery laws
much further than they have; I wouldn’t expect much help there.  

The nature or makeup of what we consider craft brewing will change as it always has.
As the industry has grown and changed the CBA has worked to keep pace and make
changes beneficial to our growth. As long as the economy is good there should be
continued merger and acquisitions which will ebb and flow what we call craft. A few
years back Ballast Point was out, but now they’re back in. New Belgium, the current
#4, will soon be out with its sale to a foreign brewery so yes that constant ebb and
flow of definition and who’s in and who’s out will continue.

Competition is a good thing in most industries and it’s been great for craft beer.
Every brewer needs to first make at least good beer and then hope there is
something that distinguishes them from others so we consumers will remember and
continue to buy them. One of those distinctions is the increased number of styles
available today compared to where we started. I would never have expected to see
the number of really good sours and farmhouse ales we’re seeing today. And after all
the high ABVs that have hit the market many are brewing a good tasting lower ABV
beer like Firestone Walker 805. If you think about it it’s almost a circle going back to
our creation when the pioneers Anchor Steam, Sam Adams Boston Lager,
Mendocino Red Tail Ale, New Belgium Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and others
were challenging the notion that beer was light and fizzy with not a lot of taste. Craft
beer is not that big that we can’t use a few new additions to the “crossover” category
for those who may want to try something different from that fizzy lager. I can see the
slogan now “less ABV, more taste” sounds oddly similar to one I remember from
decades ago.

But when it comes to styles stand back; IPA has been on the rise the entire decade
and shows no signs of slowing down. I think there are a couple of reasons for that;
first there are many of us that really like the hop bitterness in our beer and second
there has been an explosion in the variety of hops. There are over one hundred
varieties of hops so brewers can mix and match batch after batch, some are
incredible and some are not so exciting, but the constant changing keeps the IPA
lovers coming back for more

Will there be another IPA evolution like the hazy NEIPAs or will the West Coast style
make a resurgence, who knows? I certainly know the next craze won’t be the much
heralded Brut IPAs that were a lot more about bubbly hype than a good IPA taste.
But it only takes one brewer with an idea and bingo we could easily have our next IPA
style this decade.

Competition also forced brewers to think outside the box that is just beer. A wake up
call might have been Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which is actually an FMB-flavored malt
beverage, introduced in the US back in 1999. Since then we started to see craft
brewers offer a lot more shandys and radlers, then hard teas, an uptick in the variety
of hard ciders, this past year the surge in hard seltzers and finally some brewers
moving into spirits. Variety in beer styles and other offerings can expand a brewery’s
potential market since there are some who don’t really care for beer (and who are
those people and where did they come from…that’s another story), but they could
also be spreading themselves thin. Did we expect to see craft brewers branching out
this much ten years ago? So what’s next, FMB or flavored malt beverages could
easily be the next “big” thing. There were a few introduced back in the 80’s/90s (like
Zima and another one with flavors that for the life of me I can’t remember their name)
that actually weren’t half bad but they didn’t last. I could easily see one of them as
the next big thing, although that doesn’t mean they’ll stick around.

One thing we can absolutely depend on in the next decade is our “friends” at
AB/InBev trying to dilute our beloved craft beer industry any way they can. Will they
buy more of us, probably, but with 7,500+ they can’t buy us all and if they did new
ones would just pop up, but I’m sure they’ll find a few to pick off.  The more brands
they have on the shelves and in the coolers the better chance someone not wanting
a beer with more taste that’s not a mega brand will grab one and like it; more market
share for them and less for true craft beers.

And yes guaranteed they’ll come up with something to amuse us also; in fact they
already did! I’ve just seen the initial ads for their new Mich Ultra Pure Gold, or as they
call it “Beer in its Organic Form.” We’ve seen Mich Ultra, with their commercials of
young athletic folks working out and then enjoying an Ultra, be a big success for
them so I guess they figure they can add on to it. So what is Pure Gold and what the
hell does Beer in its organic form mean? It’s a USDA certified organic light lager;
interesting I didn’t know the USDA certified beer; well they’re probably just certifying

it’s organic; they couldn’t be foolish enough to certify its beer... They say its triple
filtered and brewed free of artificial colors and flavors. And here you go it’s only 2.5
carbs and 85 calories; vs Ultra’s 2.6 and 95! And here’s another great tag line;
“Inspired by nature, enjoyed in nature.” So does that mean you can only drink it in
the great outdoors?? Digging a little deeper they’re brewing this beer to “transform
the organic industry”; they want to help more farmers grow organically…because the
world will be a better place… Wow I’m just going to run out and not buy a six pack of
that. So yea if it doesn’t sell let’s see how they keep talking about this great organic

Okay time to get down to it, here’s where we’ll be in ten years, you heard it here first:
•   There will be a brewery in every city in the US, which means there will be >20,000
breweries in ten years! (Well let me clarify as we know big cities like NY, Boston,
Seattle, both Portlands, etc. already have multiple breweries so many little Podunk
cities won’t have their own, which is nothing against the Podunks, it’s just cheaper
and easier to ship beer into them.)

•    There will be LOTS of mergers and acquisitions and definitely some new twist on
them that some creative soul will think of (as long as it’s not Bernie Madoff…)

•    And the bigger older more established craft beers are not exempt for having their
share of hard times. As the choices have expanded many craft beer lovers have
adopted a “I wanna taste the newest one” mantra and do not have the brand loyalty
we used to have.

•    There will be >200 hop varieties (and you know what that means…)

•    IPA will be THE DOMINANT STYLE (as it should be). There will be so many IPAs
on the market larger cities will open IPA only stores as they have no room for the
other styles, and we IPA lovers will flock to them!

•    AB will ride the Bud Light wave. They already have Lime, Orange, Platinum and
Hard Seltzer, so they will clone every other possible competitor to drown the market,
so look for BL hard cider, hard coffee, hard tea, hard FMB and hardly drinkable until
they have about 50 different varieties.

•    In ten years Every Super Bowl commercial will be for Bud Light and they still won’t
have enough time to show you all the varieties.

•    AB will use any metal, precious metal or element name in their beers to make us
think it tastes better. They already use platinum and gold; here come Rhodium,
Palladium, Ruthenium (definitely a ballpark beer), Germanium (makes it taste like an
import), Beryllium, Einsteinium (which you drink while studying for your finals and
SATs) and BL Helium, sold exclusively at Disneyland so half the people walking
around will sound like Mickey and Minnie, to mention just a few…

•    Heineken 0.0 will be the best selling NA beer…in the 80 year old plus grouping

So those are some of my thoughts on the next ten years. And ten years from now I
hope I remember I wrote this article so I can see how off I was and how much I

couldn’t even have imagined…I’ll drink to that!

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer. presents
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