Tap This: With buyouts, mergers and new breweries emerging, craft beer drinkers can look forward to a good year
If last year is anything to go by, 2016 is sure to be an interesting year for craft beer. While many of the headlines for 2015 were dominated by buyouts and mergers between craft breweries and larger conglomerates, there were still some new, world class beers hitting shelves with wide acclaim.
So what can we expect in 2016 with regards to craft beers? Will there be more buyouts? New beer styles? Pun-filled beer names? The answer to all these questions will be covered here, but to quickly summarize, yes!
The craft beer landscape was dotted with drama in 2015. Many breweries were either bought out by large corporations, while others worked on merger deals. The year kicked off with the seemingly out-of-nowhere announcement that Elysian Brewing was picked up by AB-InBev who quickly followed this purchase with a huge misstep by airing an anti-craft beer commercial during the Super Bowl. This purchase was a sign of things to anticipate in the coming year.
As the year unfolded, many other craft breweries entered into deals with larger breweries. Lagunitas, Firestone Walker and Ballast Point are some of the more notable ones that either entered into partnerships with or were purchased by larger breweries. Ballast Point sold for a whopping $1 billion. With figures such as these being offered it’s hard to fault a brewery for entering into such a relationship.
The last month of 2015 saw a flurry of buyouts with AB-InBev purchasing three craft breweries in less than a week. Whatever your personal feeling is about these business deals they will continue to occur in the new year because beer, after all, is a big business.
New beer styles, or more accurately a twist on common beer styles, has also been a growing trend as the craft beer market expands. Gone for many are the days where a simple hop forward American IPA could be the brewery’s calling card. Instead breweries changed with the times and became innovative with Triple IPA’s being brewed to attract even the most jaded of hopheads.
Barrel aging beers has taken off in recent times. While many breweries have been barrel aging imperial stouts and barleywines, many have now turned to less traditionally barrel aged beers like IPAs with outstanding results.
One thing that will certainly ring true in the new year is that new beers will be released with very punny names. This is a seemingly rich tradition in American craft beer whether it be Rye of the Tiger, Hoptimus Prime, Sweet Child of Vine, or Apocalypse Cow. No matter what the style or where it is brewed more great pun filled names will certainly be unleashed in 2016.
As far as general predictions go, the craft market is most definitely in a transition stage. The recent massive growth that has undertaken the industry has brought forth a vast amount of new brewery’s with many trying to stand out in an overcrowded market. This push to stand out has made many get very creative and led others to focus on specific styles such as sour beers.
This trend will continue until the craft market truly reaches a saturation point, which it is far from doing, despite the announcement from the Brewers Association, that as of November 2015, have 4,144 breweries in the U.S.
New breweries have to be inventive to stay relevant in the market. Pay attention to growing trends, such as the New England hazy IPA style that took craft beer lovers by storm this year. Don’t be surprised to find many cross breeding of styles this year, no matter how bizarre they seem.
Regardless of all past and future trends, what matters most is the present and right now we have a bevy of great beer to choose from in America. For this simple fact we should be thankful. So raise a glass and toast to 2016.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.