For the 102nd Session, the topic is “The Landscape of Beer“. “How do you see that landscape now? What about in 5, 10, or even 20 years? A current goal in the American Craft Beer Industry is 20% market share by the year 2020. How can we get there? Can we get there?
Whether your view is realistic or whimsical, what do you see in our future? Is it something you want or something that is happening? Let us know and maybe we can help paint the future together.
As long as no one links back to this answer to The Landscape of Beer question in five or ten years, then I will respond. Good? OK.
Oh, and no calling me some “half-full / too positive / Cheerleader” either. Is that acceptable terms? OK.
Now that the negotiating is done, what do I see for the future? Let’s break that down into What’s Hot and What’s Not (if Sports Illustrated is cool with me stealing that)
I believe that the craft beer segment will continue to grow. The pace will slow as breweries contend with the “How” of growing from big fish in little pond to really small fish in a national pond. Raw ingredients and equipment shortages will also tamper growth but the drip, drip, drop market erosion of the BudMillerCoors market share due to their stubbornness in failing to create flavorful beer and not fruit–a-rita’s ad nauseum will provide the fuel for craft beer growth.
Consolidation will occur and in more creative ways as the players shy away from signing up with ABInBev but still want to grow. More nationally linked companies like Duvel with a presence across the country will develop. Partnerships and contract brewing might develop as well.
Not but also Hot
The more mature markets of Portland, Seattle, Denver, San Diego will see the most dramatic losses of brewery numbers because those businesses that survived the start-up phase may not have the combo of business savvy and great beer to make it to the next level. But the decreases in those areas will be more than offset by late blooming markets like L.A., the South and others whose growth will proceed at the faster rate.
There will be a tremendous drop off in beer blogs. The wave of enthusiasm will wane as bloggers either lose interest or realize that blogging is basically unpaid marketing for either their own personal brand or a brewery. And I don’t see other writing outlets expanding either. Sadly, I think there are already more than enough “How to taste” beer, regional guidebooks, and general beer books out there as well.
Whales and snobs are on the downswing as well. Bridal parties are taking place in taprooms. Beer tourism is growing and food and beer is poised to break out. The “commoners” who do those things drive whales crazy (and away) and buy flagship beers much more than costly beers. Couple that with fast rising prices on those special barrel-aged beers and you will see that more approachable beers will be bought. More approachable beer will need to be made. Less tank space for one-offs. Less interest from snobs. Less demand for whales and the cycle spins forward.
A new American born or adapted beer style will halt the dominance of the almighty IPA. I won’t be so rash as to predict what it will be because I think someone out there who has yet to open their own place has started a recipe for an IPA antidote that may go viral.