2018 brought us an onslaught of milkshake IPAs and sour beers, but what will this new year have in store? Time will tell, of course, but we did a little digging to try to uncover what trends the craft beverage industry could see in 2019.
First things first, a look at the beer industry itself. While beer sales were up and there was an increase in the number of breweries across the country last year, overall growth is slowing and in some highly saturated markets—like Portland, OR—2018 saw the close of several craft breweries. According to beer writer Lee Heidel, this year could bring more of the same, with some mid-level breweries closing or scaling back. Smaller, more nimble breweries, however, may still thrive if they keep creativity and innovation at the forefront of their brewing efforts. You can hear more from Lee in an episode of The Manual’s “Beers, Booze and Bacon” podcast.
The line of thinking is that if the craft beer bubble is at a minimum leaking air, and the economy in general is slowing down, brewers that want to stay in the game will need to focus on two things: standing out from the crowd and attracting people who may not already be die-hard beer enthusiasts. That leads to some interesting trends we’re starting to see in the market.
As millennials have shown a preference for flavored beers (and ciders), brewers are experimenting even more with different ingredients. This can include use of the ever-growing supply of experimental hops, or infusing beer with tea, fruits or even vegetables. And CBD. Definitely be on the lookout for beers infused with CBD.
Brewers are also taking a hint from bartenders, and creating beers inspired by popular cocktails, like mimosas or Moscow mules. Taking that a step further—and perhaps creating a best of both worlds scenario—are actual beer cocktails. Expect to see more of those this year. If you’re not convinced this marriage is a good idea, we recommend listening to this podcast from October on the merits of beer cocktails.
Younger generations also aren’t drinking as much alcohol, so brewers are starting to produce more beers with low or even no alcohol. The craft cocktail industry looks like it could follow a similar pattern, with bartenders coming up with creative, alcohol-free “mocktails.”
And if brewers are trying to make beers that taste like cocktails, bartenders are trying to make cocktails that taste like food, using ingredients such as bone broth, peppercorns and gravy. Forbes has a great article on this and other upcoming cocktail trends.
Saving the best for last, we’re happy to report that all areas of the craft beverage industry are leaning into sustainability and eco-friendly practices. As you know, one of our favorite ways to help out the environment is to skip the beer bottles and cans and fill up your uKeg instead!