I’ll be honest: I’m [selfishly] hoping that oenobeer has a moment. Intriguing history and endless prospects for food pairings aside, the beauty of oenobeer lies in the genre’s interpretative newness: the absence of definitive guidelines allows oenobeer at present to be a blank slate, and while there are already a handful of US brewers beginning to master the liquid.
I’d love to see more breweries dabbling in this innovative sub-style. If 2019 taught us anything, it’s that the American craft consumer is exploratory, brand-pliable, and moreover, palate-driven. Throughout the year, the imbiber appeared more centralized not on maker or brand, but around simply what he or she deemed flavorsome [cue the sudden onslaught of hard seltzers] and I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the same consumer that appreciates Florida weisses, lactose berliners, fruit-dense sour ales, berry-laden meads etc. is the same that could value a Brut fruit ale co-fermented with 33% Syrah grapes from California’s San Joaquin Valley. Oenobeer provides a unique opportunity for those that subscribe to these rich, savory fruit adjuncts to experience a nonetheless more refined, nuanced ale without sacrificing flavor or ABV (one of the best oenobeers I’ve had is a deeply drinkable 12.0%).
At the end of the day, trend is trend and while 2020 may finally be the year of the lager or the perfectly balanced, approachable pale, I’ll take pride in being that faithful voice advocating for the oenobeer: “So you’re into kiwi-mandarin-papaya-boysenberry-pomegranate-milkshake-puree-bombs? Right on. But… have you tried grapes?”
IPA’s aren’t going anywhere, so I think one big trend next year will be consumers being much more interested in the actual hop varieties. Lower ABV and big flavor IPAs will likely be very popular this year, specifically SMaSH beers that highlight hops. The collective knowledge about hops and the flavor profiles they can have, exploded after the Hazy IPA craze; suddenly unfiltered doesn’t seem so threatening. According to the 2019 National Hop Report, hop yields increased by 5 millions pounds in the United States of America compared to last year and more farmers are expanding the market here – for example, did you know Idaho produced more hops than Oregon in 2019? Because of this, there are more accessible hop varieties than there ever have been before, especially to smaller breweries.
Another trend US beer drinkers are likely to see are kettle sours. This style of brewing allows quick turnover of Berliner Weiss and Gose style beers, that are perfect to highlight local seasonal fruit. It allows breweries to cheat into ‘sour beer territory’ without risking equipment infection. Crisp, refreshing, and generally lower ABV than a typical beer, they are a perfect addition to IPA and Stout-heavy tap lists.
Self-servingly, I want to say that the biggest trend in craft beer in 2020 will be Pastry Sours, because what’s not to love about the fruity response to the pastry stout? I’ve enjoyed drinking my way through various iterations of liquified desserts and breweries like Arkane Aleworks and Other Half have been at the forefront of that with their Grandma’s Fingers and Crunchee series brews and I’d love to see more of it.
Honestly, though, my realistic prediction is that we will see a return of the classic Pilsners and Lagers to the taprooms as craft breweries start to brew what they are currently drinking despite the lengthier brewing process. Think big beer vibes, crystal clear pours and champagne style bubbles. 2020 will be the year of the “Crispy Boi”. But you know me, I’m still holding out for the pastry sour…. Happy New Year!
I think the the trend that is to come within the craft beer community is health related. I recently read an article from Business Insider stating the following: “Professor Eric Claassen said that strong Belgian beers like Hoegaarden, Westmalle Tripel, and Echt Kriekenbier, are rich in probiotic microbes that offer a range of health benefits. This is because unlike most beers, they’re fermented twice, which is also why they’re stronger.” With that being said, I think people may become more conscious as to what goes into their beers and the process to make better decisions as to what beers they drink the most. Similar to the kombucha trend. Also I foresee people becoming more aware of where ingredients are sourced from. To me, it already makes my decisions easier when I see that a brewery uses and notes that they use local ingredients. For example, give me two honey blondes and I will end up picking the one that’s says “honey sourced from local farms”. It just makes me feel better to know I’m helping a small business vs a corporation.
Honestly, as much as I hate to admit it, I think we will continue to see consolidation and selling of breweries (along with a few closings) in 2020. I have no doubt that many new ones will be opening as well – I know of a few here in the Tampa Bay Area that are planning to open by the end of 1st quarter 2020. I mean, the brewery I work for will be opening a second location by the end of January. Having said all of that, I think the end of 2019 shocked quite a few people. The merger of Boston Beer and Dogfish Head, the selling of New Belgium, InBev picking up full ownership of Craft Beer Alliance, the crazy buyout of Ballast Point. In Florida, I know of a few breweries that have sold and/or been closed. Our local boys at Cigar City joined the CanArchy brands.
I feel like the market is crowded and shelf space is limited, so the competition to stay relevant and active in stores will be even fiercer this year. If smaller breweries are going to keep competing and avoiding being bought by InBev or MillerCoors (or any other big spirits company) then they will have to work hard to make great beer and market themselves well. I feel like we will see some starting to form alliances and merging with others. I’m hopeful about the future of craft beer, but I also know that there will be some changes in the upcoming year too. Cheers to a really great 2020 filled with really great beers!
I think the biggest trend that we’ll see is one that continues from this year, and is actually a two-pronged approach.
First, it’s going to be consolidation. We’ve seen a number of independent brands get snapped up by the “big boys”, just due to the explosive popularity of the stuff that’s coming from independent brewers. The most recent of these acquisitions is that of New Belgium (Fat Tire and Voodoo Ranger, to name a few) getting snapped up by Japan’s Kirin Holdings. I’m hopeful that it won’t change the delightful nature of what they produce, but only time will tell how a smaller brand will (or won’t) change with a new, larger, parent running the show.
Secondly – and one could almost view as a corollary to the first point – are collaborations amongst the smaller independent brewers. These mix-and-match approaches can create some hot new ideas, and have resulted in some very popular brews in the community. I think it’s a great sign that the smaller breweries are learning to work together, and raise the level for all involved, rather than just viewing them as “the competition”. Beer should be fun, and when brands can figure out how to work together to create something unique, it shows the consumer that the fun starts right from the water starting to boil.
I think the biggest beer trend in 2020 will be cleaner beers (crisper mouthfeel & lighter in calories) as well as highlighting more diverse consumers.
Women & Men of all drinking ages & races will be able to celebrate the adventure that is craft beer. The culture of excluding someone based on appearance or experience is coming to an end and it’s wonderful.
IPA’s, hazy or not, will always be on trend in the beer world… but I foresee new trends being on point to excite the masses, not just the craft beer nerds we are & I’m here for it! Give me all-day crisp crushers that I can kick back over & over & take with me on a boat or to my favorite tailgate, I’d be thrilled! (I think a lot of other craft beer drinkers would be too.)
Can art is also getting bigger & more memorable as well, I love it! Hope that trend continues!
I think in 2020 we’ll see more collaboration, more networking and more innovation. The craft beer community is only going to continue to grow and we see/meet more creative like minded individuals who have great ideas but don’t know where to start.