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    Beer Trends... from the Press, Chefs & Marketers

    Here is the second part of the two part series of postings that took a look at the fads that faded last year and the fads to look forward to over the next few months. The last posting took a look at what the brewers thought about the flops and the future.

    This part is a condensation, or rendering, of the responses from journalists, restaurant owners, chefs and marketing folks. Don’t agree? Let me hear about it!

    Getting things started is a media maven from the “Garden State”. Gary Monterosso reports that in less-than-urban markets trends catch on at a different pace…

    ‘Remember I am in southern NJ and the beer scene is several months shy of what is taking place in cities. In fact, it's so rural here that the Andy Griffith Show is in first run.”

    “I thought there might be more of a push or acceptance of beer infused cocktails. I'm seeing it a bit in Philly and New York, but not at all here.”

    “Perhaps as a sidebar to the widespread acceptance of sours, which my itself is a trend, Gose may be positioned to make a move.”

    Author and longtime beer writer, Marty Nachel opines that…

    “In response to your first question, I honestly don't think I saw anything fall flat on its face last year.  Nothing comes to mind.”

    “Regarding your second question: though it's already begun, I think we're going to see a lot more low(er) ABV beers hit the market this coming year....and it's about time.”

                Rex Halfpenny, Michigan Beer Guide maven is succinct…

    1) What beer trend did you see fall flat on its face last year? Nano-breweries.

    2) What beer trend do see just about to happen? High flavor/aroma, lower alcohol.

                Carolyn Smagalski, known on the web as “The Beer Fox” bemoans “one-off” and applauds cans…

    1) What beer trend did you see fall flat on its face last year? 

    In an effort to distinguish themselves from already established craft breweries, many start-up breweries have employed the practice of making beers that are, in their opinion, "designer beers," using highly experimental ingredients that include bacon, pizza ingredients (tomato, oregano, basil and garlic), mustard, bull bollocks, kopi luwak, and other unusual items.  These ingredients may attract marketing attention, but are not conducive to gaining followers.  It is true that Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has gained a following by making "off-centered stuff for off-centered people," but each brewery needs to be able to craft well-designed, well made, clean, consistent beer as its foundation. 

    By using experimental ingredients, these new craft breweries are limiting their ability to control costs or make great quantities for a growing market.  Look at the price of kopi luwak, for example.  Even specific hops have limitations on supply and are not cost-effective. Successful breweries have already learned this and usually hop with a combination of varieties (in case the supply runs short on one).

     2) What beer trend do see just about to happen?

    "Canned" Craft Beer has come into its own as an accepted product.  At Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams Beer), long-time opponent of canned beer Jim Koch has even hailed this trend as one with great market value.  The trend of providing these canned beers in many different sizes is not about to stop; nor is the trend of providing it in different containers.  Just as juice is available in 5.5 and 6 oz. cans or aluminum pouches (coated inside and outside), so will beer become available in a variety of smaller sizes and containers.  The marketing potential of smaller packaging is huge.

    For those of us who don't want to feel bloated, small cans are a great idea. For those of us who love variety ("tasting flights," for example), small cans are a great idea.  For those of us who want to carry lots of different beer for a small picnic, small cans are a great idea.  And for anyone who would like just a taste of beer, without having to worry about a dui, small cans are a great idea.

                Don Russell, the Philadelphia journalist better known as “Joe Sixpack” questions “sessions” and suggests you pack a bag…

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year? 

    I don't think it necessarily fell on its face, but for all the talk about "session" beer, I still see that most of the interest in craft beer surrounds higher alcohol, challenging styles. 

    What trend do see just about to happen?  

    Beer travel. I've begun working with travel companies who are creating vacation travel with beer themes. If you notice the NY Times travel section, at least once a month there's an article about destinations with beer themes.

    Walking on both sides of the industry/press fence, Ashley V. Routson, better known as “Beer Wench”, (Drink With The Wench)

    “I'd say one trend in beer sales that I've noticed is getting "out of control" and I've observed many beer fans complain about is the trend of breweries releasing “Seasonal” WAY ahead of their actual season. Pumpkin beers in August, Winter Warmers/ Christmas beers in September, Spring beers in January..... I know everyone wants to be first to market.... but this is a bit ridiculous.”

    As for trends that are just about to happen… “I'd have to go with the Brewers Association's prediction from last year (they talked about it at CBC) that we will see more and more consolidation in the next few years. Large companies like the NAB, CBA, Duvel, Gambrinus, etc. will continue to acquire brands and more and more breweries will develop alliances. As for smaller level trends, I definitely see the "brewery club" concept getting bigger and bigger. Like with wine clubs, people will get the opportunity to pay to be a part of exclusive brewery clubs where they will get access to beers only offered to club members. I guess you can call it the winefication of beer.”

    From the kitchen we hear from Ralph Yedinnik, the Chef at the Waterfront Alehouse in Brooklyn, NY…

    “The beer trend that fell flat on its face seemed to be session ales. They looked like an idea whose time has come but they seem to disappear as fast as they appear, to my dismay.

    The beer trend that seems to happen again and again is the one that everybody makes the same styles. As a brewery they have to come up with something a little different. Everybody makes the same thing then it shakes out until only a few top examples remain.”

    From the halls of academia comes Ron Johnson from the California State University in Pomona…

    “I would like to introduce myself. I am Ron Johnson and I teach a class titled "Beer and Culture" at the California State University in Pomona. The class is offered as part of the Collins College of Hospitality Management. I have only been reading your blog for a short time and I am enjoying it thru far.”

    “In giving answers your questions; remember that I am pretty SoCal focused and usually get information about the rest of the country from second hand sources.”

     1) What beer trend did you see fall flat on its face last year?

    “I think a real problem is the ease in which people can start new breweries. The BA shows phenomenal growth in the number of breweries last year, but I think that we will soon be seeing a tapering off, if not already apparent.”

    “Many of these facilities (certainly not all) are being opened by people who don't have the brewing skill or business acumen to do the job that needs to be done and, as the drinking public becomes more sophisticated, will fall by the wayside. It's too bad, but it's probably for the best.”

    2) What beer trend do see just about to happen?

    “I actually see two, although both have really already started.”

    “1. I see more examples of low ABV beers with lots of character. The one I am personally enjoying most is the Pale Ales that have aromas and flavors of IPAs or even DIPAs. I believe this because drinkers I run into are starting to express a great interest in these.”

    “2. More brewers creating beers brewed to styles that have been on the shelf for a while and/or are very hard to find. Berliner Weisse, Burton beers, and Gose are examples that come immediately to mind. I'm seeing more and more people expressing interest and enjoyment of wild fermented beers.”

    And that brings us to how the marketing folks see things happening. From Boston, Julie Dennehy has watched the fermented malt beverage market for some time and offers the following…

    “As you know, I'm no longer with Labatt USA so can't answer with any affiliation to them, but I am a PR consultant, trendspotter and lover of beer so my personal answers are below.”

    “Last year, I saw the trend of creating "chick beers" fall flat (though garnering media attention in the meantime). While I'm delighted to see both large-scale brewers and craft breweries acknowledge that women love, and have always loved, great beer, that does not mean a pink can or label suffices as "marketing to women". Just show more real women drinking great beer in fun, upbeat situations... just like the men do. It's not that difficult.”

    “I would love to see the often-harkened marketing trend toward packaging customization come to fruition in 2014, especially as beer cans gain status in the hierarchy of packaging choices. Creating your own label, packaging, QR code on the can, wedding batches, and the like - all ways to allow beer lovers to personalize their experience with a brand, and allow fans to spread their personal experience through social media and word-of-mouth.”

    Separately, I'm personally glad to see lagers get the credit they are due, and beer drinkers realize that not all cool-looking craft beer bottles hold a higher quality liquid. It's a glacial shift, but it's a good one and a sign that consumers are getting educated about their beer of choice.



    Beer Trends 2014: The Brewers Observations

    Not too long ago took a survey of subscribers and social media followers consisting of two questions. The first… “What trend of 2013 fell flat?”  The second… “What developing trend to look for?”

    The response was so varied that no particular consensus could be deduced from the answers to either question.

    What did become evident was that the brewers, brewery owners and the journalists that cover the “fermented malt beverage” industry have some quite cogent observations about the brewing business.

    This post will present the responses of the brewery owners and brewers to the above two questions. First part focuses on the flops and then the forecasts.

    First up is Kelly Taylor, Co-Founder/Brewer, KelSo Beer Company, Brooklyn, NY

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year?

    --I think its wide open at this point. From cysers to sours, pumpkins to watermellons, I don't recall seeing anything drop out. If anything, big beer lost out. "Cold Filtered" isn't as strong as it once was. Now Bud is saying it's perhaps the most local of breweries. 

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    Session beers. Huzzah!

    From JT Thompson “Minister of Propaganda” at Smuttynose Brewing Co. responded…

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year?

    I'm not sure I saw one trend fall flat on its face, Peter.  If anything maybe, big trends have fallen on their face as a concept.  Sour beers are finding their place, as are barrel-aging, extreme and sessions beers.  Trends are finding their places for the time being, though I'm sure that'll change soon enough.

    Weird ingredients may be the only thing I can think of that is kind of over.  Once you're putting moon rock dust in a beer, weird ingredients really begin smelling past their freshness and corrode into gimmickry.

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    I think the next trend will be craft finding its niches around the country, especially in new-to-craft markets.  I've seen new beer scenes rush to have "everything they should have" to feel legit; from anemic beer weeks to desperate attempts to create their own style.  I guess it's part of the need to keep up with the joneses instead of letting things happen organically.  Cynical as this may sound, I think our industry is like a weeble; it'll right itself no matter what, as the market responses and makes its power felt.

    Charles M. Storey. Sr. V.P. Marketing at Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA sees the hops craze mellowing and another “shake-out” of the small breweries.

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year?

    Not sure it fell flat on its face, but the IPA arms race to exceedingly high hopping levels  saw a period of détente.  Indeed, “sessionable” IPAs like Founders All Day took the spotlight from the ultra-high IBU hop bombs.  Harpoon’s Co-Founder, Rich Doyle, started a conversation about “New England-style IPAs” that feature harmony in the combination of hops, malt, and yeast. 

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    There will be a slow down, if not total shut down, of new craft breweries coming on line.  There just isn’t enough of everything… demand, shelf space, human resources, $$, etc to keep opening small craft breweries.

    James Ottolini, Head of Brewing Operations, The Saint Louis Brewery Inc./Schlafly, St. Louis, MO offers the following…

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year? 

    While it did not fall flat on its face, I did not see “Session” beers take off the way some prophesied they would once the pendulum of consumers swung the other way.

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    The trend that is on its way and in some cases well under is the Shandy / Radler / Panache trend. There are definitely some brands already, but this will move more in this direction and I would expect a few announced Chandy / Radler brands for the summer of 2014.

    Tyler Jones, Head Brewer, The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, NH, has just taken the reins there but echoes the previous take on Extreme and Session beers…

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year? 

    The Imperial guava pitted smoked porters… AKA the "Extreme" beers.  I am finding my costumers are looking for something that tastes good and they can drink.  Which leads me into the next question

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    Flavorful low abv beers that are not IPA based.  I feel the consumers palates are groaning where they are able to pick out subtle flavors in any beer and don't need to be blown away with bitterness.  Plus with all the crack down on Drunk Driving around the country the lower the ABV the better.

    In order to not appear too geographically focused, let me introduce Chip McElroy, founder, Live Oak Brewing Co., Austin, TX…

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year?

    Basket Conditioned Double blah blah Imperial Mild blah blah Coffee blah blah Triple-Bacon-Infused Nitro-Boosted blah blah Cask-Flogged Hay Bale Aged Pilsner Stouts

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    Smoked beers.

    A Middle Atlantic brewery Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD, is represented by CEO Jim Caruso...

    What trend did you see fall flat on its face last year?

    "The "craft vs. crafty" initiative. While it's on the forefront of people's minds in the beer -- especially craft beer -- industry, the general public doesn't seem to care about it."

    What trend do see just about to happen?

    "While Flying Dog has no immediate plans, I foresee many more craft breweries getting into cider."

    Next week we will hear from the journalists that cover this beat…