It’s prediction time again! Just as I always end a year with toadying ‘best of’ lists, the next traditionally begins with my wafer-thin reputation being placed firmly on the line. Following the uncanny accuracy of my 2013 predictions (and prior to that, my 2012 predictions), look out for the following six things to become very real in the world of beer over the next twelve months. Oh, or not…
The coalition launches a brewery
Since the dawn of time, successive Governments have told drinkers what is good for them, whether they like it or not. After the cutting of beer duty reduced some of the visceral-levels of hatred towards them, in 2014 the Government realise they could be onto A Good Thing and launch a brewery, helping the coalition take advantage of the lower rates of taxation for beer producers. George Osborne becomes head brewer of Plebgate Brewing Co. Their first release; All Day Moatcleaner IPA (suggested pairing, Byron’s hamburger).
Alternatively – Pebgate’s difficult second release is Red Box Red Ale, causing the Government to be sued in a joint action by Red Bull and Redwell. The apathy towards politicians dooms the brewery, and the repercussions signal the death-knell for collaboration brewing of any kind, as the tainted hand of politics poisons the latest brewing trend. Labour win the next election on a slogan of ‘Things can only get bitter.’ (™Pete Brown, via Michael Mcintyre)
Wetherspoons to outpace brewery openings
In late 2013, the nation’s favourite chain of carpeted curryhouses announced their 900th pub was to open; and as the year progresses, JD Wetherspoons show no sign of slowing down. In fact, new ‘spoons open at a faster rate than ever before, and by December 2014 there is one for each UK brewery. Fearing total ubiquity, a re-brand is announced, and with a sweep of a gilt-edged fountain pen, Timothy Randall Martin signs the order for 500 outlets to become CraftSpoons; ‘keg and chips for the new generation’.
Alternatively – The less-carpet-more-natural approach might have looked good on paper, but high-street drinkers shun the idea, with the Sun headline ‘Wooden Spoons’ damning the idea for good. Tim Martin takes to Newsnight to defend his new love of keg beer, and is verbally eviscerated by real-ale fan Kirsty Wark. Enraged SpoonCraft forum members create a Tim Martin behemoth on MineCraft. In a surprise twist, it becomes one of the guardians in Shadow of the Colossus 2.
Salt barrel-aged beers
Following the critical acclaim Magic Rock received in 2013 for Salty Kiss, brewers take the logical next step with regard to all of the current on-trend beer fashions (sours, ageing, historical provenance). The result? Brined beer; aged the traditional way, packed in barrels of salt, then stored for months on a sea-faring vessel. The ultimate flavour experience; Ocean Gose (best enjoyed with one thumb hovering over the five-star rating on Untappd).
Alternatively – Brined Beer fails to become recognised as an official BJCP style, being lumped in the historical wastebin of ‘speciality beers’. Leading breweries re-think their ‘seasoned series’ of condiment-classics (such as Partizan’s Peppercorn Porter, and Kernel’s Ketchup Kvass). Magic Rock’s converted North Sea ferry ends up listing in a reclamation dockyard on Teesside.
Scottish Referendum: Beer Comes Home
Following a shock reversal in polling, the Scottish people vote for Independence in the referendum on September the 18th. Alex Salmond celebrates with a can of Tartan Special in that strange little Border layby on the A1. In a moment of jubilant tub-thumping (of many), he immediately decrees all Scottish styles of beer should be made in Scotland, and nowhere else. Beer fans around the world react universally with outrage, until they think for a few minutes and realise there are at least twenty kinds of IPA they prefer anyway, and forget about it soon afterwards.
Alternatively – The EU refuse to prescribe Protected Geographical Status on Scotch Ale unless Scotland joins the Euro. President Salmond considers applying for BJCP recognition for the €80/-, but drops the sheet of paper when someone hands him the projected income from the annual whisky duty.
Fresh beer to the fore
Everything is cyclical. The weather, TV schedules, the fortunes of your football team. So too, popularity of beer ageing. Back in the 80’s, beer became ice-cold and abrupt. Nowadays, garden centres are cursing the lack of barrel-planters as ageing has come back into fashion. Yet look for tank-fresh beer to become huge in 2014, as breweries cut out the middle men/women/distance and connect heavy-duty rigs to your local favourite tap. 24/7 beer for the smartphone generation.
Alternatively – Double yellows become a priority outside the nation’s inner-city hipster dens, as BrewDog break the world record for parking violations. CAMRA decides tank-fresh beer can be conditioned within an Iveco 18,000l transporter, coining new term ‘bulk real ale’. Disgruntled draymen picket breweries, causing a wave of public backing – “they block the pavements leading towards my heart” proclaims one supporter.
2014 becomes the year of malt
The hoplash starts here. James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewing sit, laughing, in their cobbled Yorkshire boot room, having predicted the future years ago. Brewers everywhere realise it is malt that people want, not hops, and Summer Wine’s ten-malt Teleporter becomes the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for the twenty-tens. ‘Single-malt’ series beers appear on bottle-shop shelves across the nation; RateBeer geeks enthuse about the piney, catty aroma of Weyermann Munich Type 1.
Alternatively – The fledgling malt-forward movement comes unstuck when proponents fail to agree on a collective noun (nothing is as catchy as ‘hophead’, after all). Suggestions cause splinter groups to form, as ‘Gristians’ decide not to associate with lowly ‘Maltbacks’. Trading price of hops goes through the roof; IPA becomes the style for 2014.
Will these tips pay out? Ask me again in twelve months. In the meantime, check back on Thursday for a (less tongue-in cheek) look at a dozen British breweries who could have a huge year in 2014…