21st Century Breweries
An Exploration of Top Brewery and Craft Beer Trends in 2018
Allow me to preface this article by saying it would be quite redundant to mention that craft beer is “booming” and “exploding” and “taking over”. That happened like - 10 years ago, right? At this point, we are in a SUPER SURGE and I feel like absolutely everyone has at least tried a craft beer and definitely has an opinion on it - which is usually not a bad thing.
What at first could have been attributed to just a usual spike in growth of something new, has continued for years into so much more! New breweries, new bottle shops, new taprooms - opening up by the hundreds across the US and the world.
Wondering what’s to come for this epic movement in the near future? Us too! I thought this would be a great time to sit down and talk about what I predict the top brewery trends will be in 2018!
If It’s NEW We’ll Drink It
With 12 places to drink beer on every corner, have you ever wondered why we always see NEW breweries popping up instead of those already on the scene opening multiple locations?
Ahh…its the NEW factor. You can’t deny it. I mean, according to The Brewer’s Association, in the past 7 years the number of new microbreweries and brewpubs opening in the United States has more than doubled! - And the big guys aren’t growing at anywhere close to that rate.
No matter how good the beers are and no matter how friendly the service, when we see a new place that’s talking about a new beer that’s brewed just a little different and aged just a little longer…we want to try it! Because we LOVE beer and we want to further explore each flavor, each hop, each yeast variation, each little bubble that was carefully carbonated into it.
While I definitely have my favorite places to sip suds (like our very own Triboro Beverage cough cough), I know I’m not alone when I say I like to check out the new places and the new beers, too.
So with new vs. old on the rise, is this level of growth sustainable? It’s nice to think that yes, it is, but I’m thinking the reality is just like with everything else, there IS such a thing as too much of a good thing.
Eventually the market will become oversaturated, it will become increasingly harder and harder for any ONE brewery to get enough share of the market to be profitable. However, I don’t believe this means that everyone is going to eventually shut down and have their livelihood and passion pulled out from underneath them.
Good beer is here to stay. What I see happening is brewers finding multiple avenues to continue to bring in income such as marketing, catering, wholesale/commercial sales, and renting out their spaces for events. Who knows, some brewers may even join forces and do things we haven’t even thought of! It’s still a long way off, because I think the steady growth is going to continue for a long time yet.
- The Classic Styles Are Coming Back Around
Clearly craft beer has evolved exponentially even over just the last 10 years. I remember when a good wheat beer or session golden ale was the thing to have. Then the India pale ales (IPA’s) took over and have held steady as a dominant choice for some time. Mmm, what is it about that bitter, crisp, hoppy flavor that has us always coming back for more? And don’t count out the stouts - those dark, roasty, creamy pints of brew are not for the faint of palate either.
But if you are paying attention there is another style of craft beer that is climbing it’s way to the top. I don’t know what else to call them but “the classics”. I’m talking the barrel-aged and the Belgian-style and the God-damn-sour-ones that open up your mind to an infinite sea of flavor and style while altogether being downright insane.
I guess “classic” is a wide-open term that is hard to really define. In this instance by classic, we mean the beers that might have been around centuries ago when hop-loading and certain styles of fermentation weren’t exactly done for taste, but in order to preserve the beer for long trips by sea to other countries.
You know the ones - I think this almost ties in with #1 above because their popularity today is spiked by people who want to taste something NEW, something different. A carefully fermented sour might not be what one orders every time, but you can bet we’re out there tasting and sampling and discerning the nuances on our ever evolving palates!
This can be in part attributed to the evolution of our palates as our taste buds become more and more accustomed to the bitter, sour, sharp notes of beers that make our Miller Lite drinking friends’ faces contort in disgust - while we’re over here like, THIS IS THE BEST BEER EVER!
Even more so, DNA amazingly plays a role in our taste evolution and preference for something a little different. Once we taste that first IPA, I think some of us must have that DNA in us that wakes up and then just wants more, wants the next level, the next hop, the next whatever!
Seriously, I’m not just making this up! In fact, the Denver Post published an article in 2016 that talked about DNA and taste evolution and how even bacteria in your mouth can affect how you taste beers. source: https://www.denverpost.com/2016/03/22/the-science-behind-why-you-like-or-hate-certain-beers-if-at-all/
Drop into your favorite brewery or bottle shop for a Friday night pale ale and you know you just can’t resist that funky looking Berliner Weisse Tart Cherry friggin’ thing from Back East Brewing that’s calling your name. It’s okay - take it home! Open it! Take it all in! That’s what craft beer is for!
So while all styles of beer are absolutely on fire right now, don’t be surprised to see the classics rearing up all over the place. Likewise, don’t be surprised when you revisit that Lambic you once couldn’t stand and find that it’s amazingly appealing now!
- Breweries are Creating Generations of Awesome People
Most of us have spent a good bit of our drinking days in a bar or club. It’s always a bit dark, the drinks are always a bit rough, and the company…yeah that highly depends on the night.
But when you step into a brewery, it’s like you’ve walked through the doors of a best friends get together - if you take the time to get to know folks and aren’t afraid to mingle!
When you’re in a brewery, the place is usually big and open, with lots of inviting seats and tables. You don’t have to wait till the late hours of the night to have fun - you can go there in the daytime! The staff is not only friendly, but 99.9% of the time they are some really fantastic people if you get a chance to know them!
There’s usually some sort of artwork on the walls or even a table of local goodies for sale. Board games and foosball tables and life-size Jenga are there for you to play. There’s frequently at least one pooch if not more, wagging their tails and hanging out. There’s even, to many people’s surprise, kids and babies and toys and strollers and families playing games. People bring their lunches or there might be a food truck you can munch from.
No one in a brewery is getting hammered and causing trouble. Everyone there is just wanting to have a good time and taste some AWESOME local beer!
You’ll rarely find that in a bar. I feel that our local breweries are going to plant even deeper roots into our communities in the future. I’ve already seen them hosting pop-up markets and community organized events, festivals and game nights, farmer’s markets, home-brew clubs and potlucks, the list goes on and on. It’s bringing together thoughtful, like-minded people (a.k.a lovers of good beer) in a meaningful way and I see that continuing in a big way in 2018.
- The Small Guy Goes Mainstream
Sitting down in a taproom and being served a beer by the owner who mad-scienced that creation not even 100 feet from where you are sitting… is an experience every beer lover needs to have. Pair that with the scenery and the community, and my night is made. But since most of us don’t spend all of our time at the brewery, we find ourselves picking up beer to-go for all sorts of events.
Boy, let me tell you how much we love it when we get a chance to bring in all kinds of brews from dedicated brewers from all over our NY neighborhoods. Of course, I know our favorite Brooklyn, Queens, and Astoria breweries aren’t even close to being the first ones to make it to the store shelf, it’s definitely something that is on the rise! More and more “small guys” are canning their stuff at the brewery and going retail, selling kegs to local restaurants, bars, and us! :-)
To that we say: hell yeah! When alongside the Budweisers and the Heinekens you see endless options of craft brew available on the shelf, just think…every single one of those beers ties back to a single, individual microbrewery somewhere, puttin’ the LOVE into it and making it big. To that, we say hell yeah again!
That’s a whole different level of cool. It’s like seeing your friend’s famous crockpot lasagna for sale at the grocery store…only it’s beer and it’s canned and so, so delicious. Trend numero 4, definitely receives a seal of approval.
So there you have it. I could probably play around and talk about breweries and beer with ya all day, but for now I will leave it at that. As you ponder these trend predictions, let me ask you: Have you seen any of these to be true in your favorite breweries and bottle shops? Do you disagree with any of it?
Have you found your favorite spot or checked out who the newest guy on the scene just happens to be? Most importantly, have you been by our humble little place??
Exploring your local brewery and beer scene is definitely something you should do if you are a lover of incredible, well-crafted beer and the local community that ties into it! Depending on where you live, sometimes you have to dig a little to find the real gems, but that’s all part of the fun!