Looking Ahead – Predictions for 2016

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Editorial | 9 Comments

Crystal Balls. It’s been a couple of years since I last dragged mine from the cupboard and dusted it off – so let’s take a look into its milky blues depths and see what might be on the immediate horizon for 2016 when it comes to the world of beer. Predictions are always a tricky prospect, so let’s make it even tougher and (for once) think about it seriously, rather than the over-the-top wankery of previous years. Here’s what I think could well come to pass this drinking year. Feel free to copy and paste it back to me in December!

Move away from hops

2015 was a poor year for hops, with US drought and European rains checking off anything between 5 and 20% of expected yields (the latter figure the drop-off in Centennial production, so bad news if your favourite beer features that). Brewers will compensate though, as they always do. The figures don’t look – to my eyes – as bad as the Great Hop Shortage/Swindle of 2008. But the number of breweries is now far greater. Smaller producers will feel the squeeze, so look for new lines or ranges with added ingredients, big malt bills, unusual brewing techniques…or…

UK Styles

The Beery Homecoming of 2016. It’s what our regional brewers have known for centuries, but check 2016 for those in the craft/modern/epic beer sector to catch on and begin to develop some styles that are closer to home. I’m not saying you’ll see a Beavertown Best Bitter this year, but the continued success of US ‘session beers’ could parlay into the resurgence of English IPA from UK brewers. Other styles to look for this year – dry stout, red ales and maybe, just maybe, the return of the sacred barley wine. Why import loads of hugely expensive C-Hops for a Double IPA when the English barley wine is staring from the brewing ledger?

Micro Collabs

Breweries coming together is nothing new – indeed it has become a backbone of the brave new world of British beermaking. And others have taken notice of this. Look out for breweries to pair with expected – and unexpected – sources to get interesting beers to market, as outside influence begins to enjoy the pull of craft beer. So recent partnerships such as Oddbins with their Limited Edition beers (the No6 is particularly good), Brompton Bicycles with Meantime and Virgin Trains with RedWillow on Tilting Ale are going to become par for the course in 2016; breweries get increased exposure, and the partners hitch their wagons to the momentum of craft beer.

Micro Bars/Shops

Staying on the subject of small and manageable – as well as micro partnerships, I think 2016 is going to see more of the trend of small-scale, local operations for on on and off-trade. I’ve yet to set foot in one, but micropubs have been on the rise for a number of years in parts of England (even with their own association). There’s now officially one in Scotland (although Ronnie at the Railway Tavern in Kincardine might beg to differ). Look for more to follow – as well as boutique beer shops such as Burslem’s Otters Tear’s, recently opened by excellent beer writer Phil Hardy.

Say Goodbye to Core

Maybe related to the travails of hop and changing styles – the latter being something that is increasingly a feature of every brewing year – maybe more breweries will follow the interesting route championed by Cloudwater and have rotating core lines (four times a year for them), or even do away with core lines altogether. Instead, they could become known for doing one thing well (sours, pales, or whatever) rather than spreading over a series of beer types. Or just forget about the concept of continually dialling up a few beers and brew whatever the heck they want, when they want. If the brand of the brewery is strong enough, and demand is there, then does it matter if they don’t have a five-beer-focus?


We all now bow-down to the Aluminium Gods, but the incessant rise of canning has given some hits and quite a few misses (mobile canning will get there eventually, but it’s not there yet). Still, cans are a perfect meeting of trend and convenience – it’s something for breweries to shout about just as much as it is for drinkers to carry around with them. We may not collectively hike or bike as much as those in Colorado (speaking for myself), but cans are here to stay. So let’s end these predictions with something a little wacky. What about plastic bottled beer? Williams Bros were rumoured to have looked at PET packaging a while ago; with the phenomenal price-point of canning equipment, would plastic bottles be an acceptable halfway house? And would people actually buy them?

Let me know below if these are likely, or if I’m barking up the wrong tree (filled with healthy hops and home-grown DIPA’s)


  1. Adrian Tierney-Jones
    January 21, 2016

    PET bottles are pretty common in the Czech Republic — recall having bottles of Kocour’s beers in them. Think I might have had one in the US as well.

  2. Richard Yates
    January 21, 2016

    Hello All – its Richard Yates from The Brewers Association of Scotland. What’s the view on new malt varietals ? There is interest from primary agriculture to produce malting varieties for Scottish USP and taste options. Any views ?

    Look out for us promoting Scottish Craft Beer as a key element in the wider tourism context is 2016.

    Best – Richard


  3. Phil Morton
    January 21, 2016

    A return to focus on British styles would be most welcome:- Bitter, Mild, Wee Heavy, 70/-, 80/-, UK IPA and Barley Wine – all can be great.

  4. Richard
    January 21, 2016

    Richard – provenance is always increasing (at least in many peoples’ minds) so using locally-grown and kilned malt will always be of interest to brewers, if available

    Adrian – I bow, as ever, to your greater travel knowledge 😉

  5. Richard Yates
    January 21, 2016

    Much appreciated – it’s an area of focus.



  6. Chris Williams
    January 21, 2016

    Our new bottler is able to fill/cap the PET’s, we have bottles, caps and labels for a beer but as yet to roll them out. Going to do some short runs ones to test out demand via our online (and select independent) stores in the new month or so though. They seem popular in eastern Europe, you often get 6 packs of 2L PET bottles in the supermarkets.

  7. PW
    January 21, 2016

    Doubtful on the PET side. Microbrewers won’t use them because their beer will skunk. Big brewers won’t use them because of storage issues. I only bring this up because I read this the other day:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2050-0416.2001.tb00098.x/abstract (page 12)

    Plastic Containers for Beer
    Plastic manufacturers have tried to perfect bottle or can for beer for at least decades. Each new product was used for a time, but it then disappeared from the market because of flavour problems. These were mainly of these kinds:

    Transfer of flavours into the product from the plastic or the plasticizers
    Loss of flavour from the product by absorption into the plastic or diffusion through it*
    Diffusion into the product of oxygen from the atmosphere
    Loss of carbon dioxide from the product via diffusion out through the plastic wall.

    There have been no published reports documenting what went wrong with beers packaged in the various packages. All we know is that they did not continue in the market.

    Those European brewers who have adopted plastic bottles have chosen mainly the thin-walled types, but coated with second layer of low permeability for oxygen. Oxygen does continue to be problem. No published data are available, but brewers generally only
    guarantee month flavour life, as compared with months in glass, and it is worth noting that the packages appear only in areas with colder outdoor temperatures [could be suitable for Scotland, maybe that’s why cider is serve like that].

    In Japan, the thicker-walled PET containers have had measure of success. Japan has traditionally had 2- and 3-litre party kegs on the market, the so-called Namaduru. Traditionally these were steel kegs.

    The author notes that the beer’s enemy no. 1, oxygen, can gain access in four different ways. Two of these are governed by the design of the package, namely desorption from the PET, and permeation through the PET. With thick walls, as in Suntory’s containers, desorption of oxygen held dissolved in the plastic is not negligible source. With regard to CO2, three factors are governed by the design of the
    package, namely loss of CO2 by sorption into the PET, permeation of CO2 through the walls of the container, and volume change because the container expands under the internal pressure. All of these factors led the Japanese designers to choose near-spherical container shapes.

    Imanishi’s paper gives good data on the flavour stability of beer in PET Namaduru vs. steel. The ordinate [ http://i.imgur.com/5Pv9SLi.png
    ] is the panel’s flavour ratings from ‘excellent’ down to ‘poor’ and ‘bad’. At 35°C, there was little difference between PET and steel. In both containers, the flavour turned ‘poor’ already at the 2-week point. At 25°C, the beer in PET turned ‘poor’ at the 6-week point, while in steel, the beer took 8 weeks to turn ‘poor’.
    Finally at 15°C, the beer in PET became slightly oxidized at 3 weeks and 8 moderately oxidized at weeks. In steel, the beer took 4 weeks to become slightly oxidized. The conclusion was that the thick-walled PET containers could be used wherever they could be kept below 20°C.

    This probably accounts for the fact that these products until now have seen more use in the Northern Europe and in Japan. In any case, indications are that the plastic packages are constantly being improved and the last word has not been heard about them.
    The author ends this report on the effects of new equipment and processing on flavour by expressing his wish that it may serve to stimulate more extensive reporting of valid sensory assessments.

    * [Peter Wolfe’s thesis showed that the majority of the hop aroma was scalped, “80% of the myrcene had been scalped by the crown liner after 3 weeks” http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/34093/Wolfe_thesis.pdf / https://www.reddit.com/r/beer/comments/40nvfs/how_fresh_is_fresh_enough_for_ipas/cyw1lhb%5D

    I have seen Stewart Brewing offer them in place of growlers which seems like a good area to use them. I suppose you can use the amber ones.

  8. Graham
    January 22, 2016

    I’m a fan of all of your predictions Richard, and hope they all come to pass, except the adoption of PET bottles. I can attest to the flavour stability issues with them. Here in Korea, just as Japan, they are very popular BUT also fairly inconsistent. I avoid them now and buy cans or glass bottles instead.
    Although it is worth considering the human factor too. Here “beer” is very much misunderstood so there is an element of people not knowing how they should store them which may lead to many of the issues with freshness. I wouldn’t expect you to have the same issues in Europe or the UK.

  9. Richard
    January 22, 2016

    Some interesting pro- and anti-PET arguments already! I think as long as there’s decent beer inside from the start and they are marketed well, then they have a chance. But the study linked to by PW does raise some concerns, although the standard and quality of PET/bottles may differ and if they are designed for chillers that should help keep some of the oxidation stats at bay. I’d be interested to see how the Williams Bros trial does, when launched – a good chance for some side-by-side comparisons!

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