It’s been a while but after a couple of months distanced from my fifty-two beer year (although in truth I managed a lot more than 52) it’s back to the grindstone with this, a look ahead into 2018 and a few trends I think will become apparent over the course of the year. As ever feel free to quote these back at me at some point. Thankfully nobody has ever actually done this, allowing me to get away with such screamers as predicting sours would take over back in 2010* and beer sold in PET plastic would be the new thing in 2016. I did sort of predict the session IPA though, so you have me to blame for that.
*Note to self, must renew 3rd-party hosting on Photobucket.
1. More Crowdfunding
Ok so this one is a freebie. Writing a year preview post in early March means I’ve missed the first couple of months where Northern Monk hit their £500k target in three hours and Bristol-based Left Handed Giant hit their £450k target in one hour. Just think about that for a minute – particularly if you’re not overly familiar with either of those breweries. A combined £950,000 raised in four hours. At time of writing Northern Monk have now raised £815k and LHG £580k. This is astonishing.
Now I’m not crazy into motorsport but I do know that when there’s a wet race and the conditions dry out, the teams wait and see which of their rivals will be brave enough to pit for dry-weather tyres first. Once that person does, and posts fast lap times, they all pit. Well the teams from Leeds and Bristol have pitted first and holy cow is the running good. It’s an easy prediction to make but look for more regional craft breweries to crowdfund asap, I would think the guys at CrowdCube are going to get a lot of cases of beer on their doorsteps soon. And why not? People buy brewers breweries these days.
The motor racing analogy doesn’t quite hold though of course – Northern Monk weren’t the first to come into the pits. BrewDog were there at the end of the first lap, and are so far down the track as to be a dot. Currently with a combined £54 million raised in the five rounds of Equity for Punks they are off to the races. But the recent CrowdCube raises show that there is still mileage in crowdfunding, and then some. Back at the end of 2017 Cloudwater’s Paul Jones suggested he was open to the idea. Look for them to pull the trigger in 2018 and all hell to break loose. Who will be first to £100M?
2. Loyalty Cards
I’ve been wondering for a while why this concept isn’t more prevalent when it comes to beer. With recent developments (again, via the medium of crowdfunding) of things like the Beer Merchants Tap, where an online retailer funded a real-life bar in London – and yes, online is real life too, I know – I think the greater concept at play could become more prevalent. With more competition than ever, rewarding your regular customers takes on a new level of importance. Will 2018 be the year we see a brewery loyalty card?
So if you spend money in the (say) Magic Rock taproom you get a discount from their online store (or vice-versa). I know these kinds of things do exist, and places like Beer Merchants have redeemable codes for discounts but aside from BrewDog’s Equity Punk ID Card I can’t think of another actual, physical card that you carry with you. Swipe your Buxton card every time you visit the Buxton Tap, say. Maybe even have it scanned every time you buy a Beavertown can, whether in Mother Kelly’s or Wetherspoons, with the data collected on your account online. And what do cans make?
3. Cyclical Styles
Why couldn’t Black IPA be the style of 2018 like it was a decade ago? (I did have a list of the styles of the year somewhere but have sadly mislaid it – I think it went Black IPA, craft lager, saison, sour, session pale, saison again, sour again, NEIPA – with a few years in between the styles). Let’s all adopt the retro-vibe that never actually goes away and get on board with the first wave of styles that hit the UK’s nascent beer appreciation scene. It’s like Stranger Things but with booze.
4. Taprooms away from the Tap
These days there’s no need to have your taproom actually physically attached to your brewery. Or at least, the second one you build. Look for 2018 to be the year that breweries take a punt on locations in other cities (as Moor Beer have done so well with their arrival in London). If the capital’s brewers are jaded with the Bermondsey Beer Mile, why not a selection of UK brewers taking over the arches? That really would be a beer festival every weekend – for good and bad. And why stop there? Would people not head to a Moor Tap in Birmingham? Or Newcastle?
It pains me to write it, but wax just won’t go away. In fact, more wax will be here this year, as the dip-club gains new members and America’s greatest scourge runs over this country anew. Full disclosure – I work for a brewery that releases wax-dipped bottles. But I still struggle (both literally and metaphorically) with the messy, brittle seal that adds a needless five minutes to my enjoyment of the beer. But as it looks cool and it’s catching on, expect to have to reach for that carving knife more often in 2018.
So that’s it. Any screamers in here? Let me know…