What's Brewing in 2016: Trends That Will Shape the Coming Year in Beer

Where is beer going this year?
Where is beer going this year?
Photo by Doug Fairall

Ah yes, the new year. When millions of people put together resolutions to eat healthier, go to the gym, or be better humans only for those aspirations to be crushed under the weight of excuses, excuses, excuses. At least craft beer will always be there for you. Or will it? 

No, it will. But what will the craft beer landscape of 2016 look like? With the help of a few industry sources, I've polished off the ol' crystal ball (euphemisms aside) to see what this coming year will bring to our wonderful world of beer.

The Year of Craft Cider

Big brewers are already getting into the mass-market cider game, bringing more options to consumers with the Boston Beer Company's Angry Orchard leading the way with a now 60 percent volume share in the market. The company, most famous for their Boston Lager, saw a 102 percent growth in 2014, with the sweet stuff flying off shelves left and right. AB InBev’s Stella Artois Cidre wasn't too far behind, exhibiting the strongest percentage growth of 158 percent.

A Euromonitor International study dated June 2015 declares, "There is a movement to make dry and semi-dry ciders. Industry experts believe that re-education is happening with cider." That new cider knowledge will get people interested in the many variations that are available.

Apple is the most dominant flavor of cider, but alternatives such as pear (perry) will make strong inroads.

We saw this growth first hand with the opening of our first cider makers in the area, Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks in West Palm Beach. I wouldn't be surprised to see another cider maker pop up in Broward county.

Industry Consolidation

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether AB InBev’s recent purchases of five large beverage wholesalers in three states will unfairly squeeze out smaller distributors and the craft products they carry.

Mergers and acquisitions will continue to happen. Look for more regional breweries to be bought out similar to breweries like Lagunitas Brewing Company (of which Heineken acquired 50 percent) or Ballast Point (of which Constellation Brands, the owners of Corona, purchased in 2015 for $1 billion).

"There are over a dozen deals in the pipeline right now," Sixpoint Brewery shared on Reddit last month. "So unless the deal falls apart, all of these should hit the wires in the next year. There will be an undercurrent to bring craft beer back to its roots, just as there was in the mid to late '90s, when big money poured in. This will start the wave of the next round of leadership to bring us into the next decade. The cycle continues!"

Because of these changes, the Brewer's Association may decide to redefine its definition of "craft" to protect its growth numbers and, of course, membership fee revenue. At the end of the day, Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors LLC will continue to hold on to almost 73 percent of the American beer market.

Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks head brewer Matt Stetson giving a tour of their facility.EXPAND
Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks head brewer Matt Stetson giving a tour of their facility.
Doug Fairall

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Continued Growth of Sessionable Beers

Though hoppy, sessionable IPAs became vogue in the last few years, there should be a push in 2016 to add other styles to the low-alcohol list of beers. The popularity of the tart Berliner weisse and the salty Gose styles show that people are seeking robust sour flavors without the large alcohol punch. 

The English know quite well the value of low-alcohol, sessionable, malt-forward beers, as the 3 to 4 percent ABV Milds and Bitters that dominate pubs can attest. These easy-to-drink beverages should be making a comeback and showcase the malty side of beer. I wouldn't be surprised to see craft American Milds making it big as an alternative to drinking "lite" beers all day.

Global Expansions

Beer as a whole, including some aspects of craft beer, will be going global. According to the Barth-Haas Group ("the world's largest supplier of hop products and services"), emerging markets in Africa, Asia, and Latin America could help expand worldwide beer consumption.

Per-capita consumption in China is just over half that of the United States, providing brewers the opportunity for growth in that country. Sales in China are expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of about 6 percent from 2013 through 2018, according to Euromonitor. It's a sign of an increased economy and an increase in desire for Western goods.

The industry expects the African continent to be a key growth market as economic development there continues. South Africa, Cameroon, and Kenya are Africa’s leading beer-consuming countries per capita. Nonalcoholic beer is driving growth in nations with large Muslim populations in Africa as well as the Middle East. Beer, and even beer-like products, will have plenty of room to grow.

Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.

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