The year 2020 has come and gone, and it was a real doozy.
The pandemic changed our way of life and affected each of us at some level. I delayed writing this yearly column out of respect and, honestly, having other things on my mind. Now that we are well into month two of 2021, with the top of the mountain in site, I wanted to weigh in with my yearly prognostications on craft beer.
As in previous years, I'll try to predict how the winds of brewing will blow. Let’s touch base on a few of my guesses for 2019; you'll see that I graded myself!
New Ingredients will be huge: A
Very much the case.
Sours will be a force: A
Again, a good guess.
Cask and keg infusions will grow: A
These beers are everywhere.
Destination beer travel will grow: D-
Nope! I missed that one.
For 2020, I changed it up a bit based on optimism and the maturing craft beer market. Let’s take a quick look.
Low alcohol and non-alcohol beers will emerge: A
100% and growing.
Stranger the beer, the better: C
This trend slowed down.
Clear IPA will re-emerge: C
Hazy’s still dominated in 2020.
Laws will be addressed: D-
Nope. I missed this one. There were few changes last year, but there are proposals on the docket for this year.
Beerfests will reset: D-
COVID-19. What can I say?
Openings and closings will sync up: A
Got that right, but for all the wrong reasons.
There will be a major motion picture featuring a brewery: F
Missed that one completely.
Here are my predictions (guesses) for craft beer in 2021.
Craft beer will continue to find ways to make our beer accessible.
With COVID-19, many breweries went to curbside and delivery to get the beers to the people. This trend will continue with even more innovation.
Virtual beer-tastings and education will explode.
This is low hanging fruit. I do virtual tastings often, and they are enjoyable. Even after the pandemic, I see this trend staying around.
Low alcohol and seltzer will become the industry leader.
I think this is a certainty.
Hazy beers are here to stay, but the glow will fade.
There is a place in the quiver for these beers, no doubt, but the part of the beer drinking public that drove this trend is fickle, and they will be looking for the next shiny thing.
Outdoors is king.
Outdoor beer-drinking and eating in warm or even cold climates is going to be a leading story in 2021. The pandemic has forced all of us to redesign how we can safely deliver our products to the public, and within this new normal, some great ideas have emerged. Many breweries enjoyed offering outdoor options for the first time. I think this trend is 100% here to stay.
I think breweries will continue to offer curbside and easy retail sales options. That being said, I see outlets offering mix-and-match options. An example would be 4-6 different beers, a hat, a shirt or two and a couple pint glasses for a discounted price. Thinking outside the box is the new benchmark, and I applaud these types of changes.
And finally, here are a few personal hopes that could show up.
- Wheat beers will be more in demand.
- Our industry will recognize and separate sour beer categories, traditional (long-aged, 3-years-plus) vs. new school, (2-3 weeks). This will help consumers understand the market better, especially the pricing for the various beers.
- German-style lager beers will become a force.
- Clear IPAs and pale ales will be in vogue.
- Beers that give back to folks (portions of proceeds) will be all the rage.
Thanks for reading! I feel very grateful for your comments and support.
Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.