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2019 Trends in Craft

Craft beer in 2018 was largely defined by consolidation. While the consolidation of craft brands is not a new story, the past year saw many brands consolidate product lines and distribution footprints. This is a more conservative tack than we’ve seen in years past, and it can be seen as a direct result of increased competition. Many brands were forced to scale back ambitious growth plans, lest they end up like Green Flash, which went from a Brewers Association Top 50 brewery to foreclosure in a matter of months.

Though this means less large-scale regional and national brewing operations, the general implications for the craft ecosystem are positive. For one, breweries are resorting less to clogged and monopolized retail channels in favor of taproom sales, which will encourage the community aspect at the heart of craft.

Further, reducing SKUs will allow for more focused production and, ideally, better beer. Given the surplus of brands versus shelf space, the consumer won’t notice a difference in the number of brands to choose from.

Demographically, things are looking up for craft. No longer just a sanctuary for real-life versions of The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, women now comprise 32 percent of the overall craft beer market, with the 21-34 subset representing 15 percent of total craft drinking volume, according to a Revel Systems report.

Further, the report indicates that craft beer drinking among the Hispanic demographic is projected to grow by 31 percent this year.

The coming year’s potential to focus on lighter, more palatable styles should serve to bring in more new beer drinkers, as well as the growth of hard soda and seltzer categories.

With these demographic shifts come new ideas, new taste preferences and new drinking attitudes, which we may see filter back into the entirety of the craft drinking population.

Breweries are resorting less to clogged and monopolized retail channels in favor of taproom sales, which will encourage the community aspect at the heart of craft.

Millennials remain firm as craft’s strongest proponents, comprising 58 percent of the craft drinking constituency. As the majority, this group will largely dictate what styles become popular and what methods of packaging, branding and sales are successful. So, for those in the industry, this is an important group to consider when making business decisions.

As we have seen, A-list hop brands have been on the rise as consumers clamor for juicy, tropical Hazy IPAs. Overall hop production is up slightly from last year, but the race for the big names like Ekuanot or Galaxy makes it tough for smaller breweries to acquire them at an affordable rate. So, when shelling out for these marquis bits of lupulin, be confident that the end product will justify the cost.

Given the highly competitive nature of a 7000+ brewery climate, knowing what you do and don’t do well will go a long way. Last year’s industry outlook emphasized the value in focusing on specific styles and learning to do more within their stylistic confines, if not redefining them entirely. 2019 will weed out breweries producing anything less than great, consistent product, and having a focused stylistic wheelhouse will increase the odds of standing out.

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