In 2010, there were 1,759 operating craft breweries in the United States. Total domestic craft beer sales were $7.6 billion. New England-style IPAs were a niche style unknown in many parts of the country. There was no such thing as a brut IPA and stepping into a bar to order a gose or a spontaneously fermented wild ale would probably have been met with bewilderment.
A decade later, there are more than 7,346 operating craft breweries, with thousands more in the pipeline. Together, they produce more than 25 million barrels of beer annually, resulting in retail sales of more than $27.6 billion, and providing more than 150,000 jobs. Cloudy IPAs the color and opacity of a tall glass of OJ are inescapable.
Over the past 10 years, craft beer burst into the mainstream and evolved—mostly for the better and often in wild, unexpected ways. Absolutely no one on the cusp of this decade could have predicted what would happen. Nevertheless, we asked a few of our favorite brewers for what we might be able to expect in the coming decade, or at least in the coming year.
The Haze Craze isn’t going away…
“I think the momentum that hazy IPAs have has exhibited some pretty good staying power as a style. It can be a really beautiful style. My plea to the public would be to just fucking taste it—don’t look at the can. Just see how it feels in your mouth and if it tastes good and go from there. I think it’s a really exciting style, because it’s something we invented in this region and added to the world beer culture. It’s also a style that’s developing.” – Travis Kauffman, proprietor of Folksbier Brauerei
“I think hazy IPAs are awesome. I don’t think there’s an oversaturation. Most local bars still don’t carry too many of them. I think one of the biggest advantages of running a taproom is that we’re very much involved in that beer from when it’s a grain until it’s into your glass.” – Andrew Burman, co-founder of Other Half
I think the momentum behind hazy IPAs has exhibited some pretty good staying power. It can be a beautiful style. My plea to the public would be to just fucking taste it.”
But we may see more variation in IPAs, as well as a resurgence in other styles
“We think the pendulum is going to swing back towards more balanced beers, particularly in the IPA category. The style has famously trended towards less bitter and more sweet in recent years, but in our experience palate fatigue is starting to set in with drinkers. We don't think it necessarily means a huge resurgence in traditional West Coast IPAs, but maybe a more refined, balanced version of the current hazy, juicy will emerge.” – Jake Guidry, branding director at Hopewell Brewing
“I think in general, a little bit of a return to historic styles and an appreciation for that sort of stuff. Even just Belgian tripels and some of those great world beers that have been sort of ignored by the craft movement and have been underappreciated for a long time.” – Travis Kauffman, proprietor of Folksbier Brauerei
The taproom experience is going to matter more than ever
“A lot of breweries that are using their taprooms to their advantage and putting out a product that needs to be fresh and can’t sit on shelves. I think one of the biggest advantages of running a taproom is that we’re very much involved in that beer from when it’s a grain until it’s into your glass. I think it’s also a little bit of a retro feel of back to the community. I hope that’s where beer’s going and I think it is. As we’ve opened new spots, we’ve really come to believe that community is what beer is.” – Andrew Burman, co-founder of Other Half
“You can’t just sell beer anymore. So many people are brewing good beer right now that beers have become better than they ever have been, so you have to be able to offer something more. I think the actual taproom experience is going to matter way more. It used to just be that you could have some chairs and beer in a room, but that’s not the case anymore.” – Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, founder of Evil Twin
So many people are brewing good beer right now that beers have become better than they ever have been, so you have to be able to offer something more.”
There will be a huge demand for sessionable beers
“I see the White Claw movement as some sort of cry for beer drinkers for delicious, light things that are readily available. We’re going to see this focus on light, quaffable beers that go great with food. I really believe that if there was a good supply of delicious local lagers, White Claw would be obsolete.” – Travis Kauffman, proprietor of Folksbier Brauerei
“My gut tells me that lighter, lower ABV beer will continue to trend. A sessionable beer that doesn’t compromise on flavor and that will also compete in the seltzer space will be a big hit in 2020,” says Michael Craft, ambassador at New Belgium.
“I think plenty of brewers are making great pilsners and low-ABV [beers] that are subtle and unique and delicious. As a beer-drinker, you can only have so many double IPAs. There’s so much creativity within these beers and brewers are finding that. I don’t think they’ll ever eclipse IPAs, but it’s nice to bring to a festival.” – Andrew Burman, co-founder of Other Half
Craft brewers are going to need to think out of the box
“I’ve been involved in the beer world for a long time and even though we have more breweries now, too many are doing the same thing. When I started, it was about showcasing your own style, but now it feels like too many people are just selling the same hazy IPAs and fruited sours. It’s become a little one-dimensional. You have to be able to stand out, which is why I believe that innovation is going to matter more. One thing that we’ve been doing is we’ve started to use more savory ingredients, like avocados and carrots. The whole savory aspect of beer brewing has never really been explored. I think it’ll take a while to catch on, but I think we’re going to see it more and more.” – Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, founder of Evil Twin