So, after several months of inactivity here (caused by a whole host of activity thanks to a new arrival) I figure I should get back into the swing of things and kickstart the BeerCast for another year. From now on I’ll be concentrating solely on Scottish beer and brewing, trying to bring more of the stories to life on what is happening north of the border.
But first, let’s have a few predictions. I’ve been doing this annual post for years now and – thanks to the law of averages – I managed to hit on a few last time around; predicting the outpouring of crowdfunding AND the arrival of brewery taps in far away cities (“If the capital’s brewers are jaded with the Bermondsey Beer Mile, why not a selection of UK brewers taking over the arches?”). But I have also confidently penned that Black IPA would come back (here’s hoping for 2019) and that wax seals would go away (ditto) and that dry-hopped cider would sweep the world – albeit in a post where I mentioned New England IPA would jump the Atlantic and takeover.
In short, don’t listen to me. Or…maybe…do?
Here are a few beer predictions for 2019…
Within the last few weeks we have seen Northern Monk unveil a new look, Cromarty Brewing do the same and Fyne Ales change up their packaging. Others like Loch Lomond, Tempest and Magic Rock have done this recently too. As we move deeper into 2019 look for more UK breweries to fill the coffers of design agencies and release a fresh new look.
Rebranding has taken place for as long as brands have existed, but years ago it was a much bigger deal. Back then your brand was your look and vice versa. Now everything has changed – for two reasons, I think. Firstly breweries like Cloudwater arrived with the new foresight of continually-changing labels; and secondly around the same time upstarts from Scandinavia appeared with cans that routinely look like Cillit Bang designed by a three year old.
The upshot of this can be seen in any bottle shop, with rotating stock lines now showcasing all manner of bespoke and commissioned art. All of a sudden the same logo approach looks distinctly old fashioned. If your favourite brewery has been the same for 5/6 years – they may not be for much longer.
It’s now nearly three years since Fyne Ales and Burning Sky installed coolships at their respective breweries and began inoculating their brews with wild, windborne yeast. Fast-forward to 2019 and this will become the next trend for hard-charging UK craft breweries. Just ask Mark and the team at Almasty in Newcastle who tweeted this last Friday. Their new (and now newly-filled) coolship has started to generate Geordie Lambic and will be the first of many this year.
UK coolships aren’t a new thing; Elgoods’s have been harnessing the power of floaty flora for a lot longer. But when it comes to spontaneously-fermented beer they don’t have the brand recognition of any of the three breweries in the previous paragraph, in the circles that matter. Home-harnessed sours have huge potential in 2019. They tick all the boxes.
Beer geeks – those that will pay double-digits for a single drink – love sours; and Belgian lambic and gueuze in particular. Brewers love a challenge. Marketing guys love barrels. And welders love to get paid. All it takes is for a few more metal baths to be put together and then British sours will really take off. High-risk, huge-social interaction, heavy-margins. Perfect craft beer fodder.
Speaking of getting paid, there are only so many Insta-shots of brimful mash-tuns and dripping dual-purpose FV’s before a brewery reaches capacity. This has been a problem since brewers packaged their beer in earthenware and it’s certainly true now. I think a growing trend this year will be outsourcing. It’s all about the supply and demand.
Contract brewing has had an up and down perception in the industry; what is a great way for budding brewers to cut their teeth without cutting into their funds has also tied up these new go-getters in loops of red tape and insipid results that they subsequently have to deliver to fifty accounts promised. In short, it’s a minefield. Or it is, when done that way.
Breweries like Camden Town put the cart first and after establishing a successful brewery then kept up with demand by paying others to brew their core range. Heck, it’s cheaper than buying another brewery. As 2019 continues and the craft race hots up, look for some to apply a bit of chequebook diplomacy and brew a bit elsewhere. After all it helps not just one brewery, but two.
4. Collab Fatigue
This may be myself talking but the ceiling that has been risen by the likes of those with ever-changing lineups and no core offering will surely come down because of collaborations. Not standing still in this market is a great thing – you don’t want to encase your feet in the cemented-shoes of a core range – I get that. But the other extreme is even worse.
The continual push towards more and greater collaboration – who does it actually help? Sure the brewers learn things from eachother but after the twentieth time you’ve made a coffee for a guy from Sweden, who benefits from that? After a while you’re just going through the motions and self-automating the latest laptop exchange.
And the consumers? Another crazy-named, big beer with catchy branding. Ok fair enough, but will you remember it next week? Which Danish nano-brewery came over for this one, again? You can have too much of a good thing and when sales of your high-value IPAs go down, maybe look to postponing that agave and guava gueuze brewday with those guys from…dang. It was one of the Baltic ones, I think…
5. Styles for 2019
Well the West Coast IPA bug is back. The cylindrical sweep of the pendulum of haze is set to push away from juice and back towards resin. For me, I think that’s a good thing but that’s as my eyes were first opened to beer (and away from Worthington’s and Bank’s Bitter) thanks to the likes of Stone IPA and the many, many beers that followed.
Not that NEIPA is dead of course – far from it. But alongside WCIPA some other styles that could break out this year and become the Brut IPA of the year are:-
- Hop-forward Porter. Dark, roasty, use whatever hops are in the store. Porter more fashionable than stout and a beer that appeals to fans of both light and dark. A slam-dunk.
- Berliner-Weisse. 2019’s kettle sour has been here before but the sour bandwagon is much smaller. So look for more B-W’s but this time with syrup. Big colour, low ABV. TICK!
- Pale Ale. Just simple, honest Pale Ale. The ultimate f*ck you to the geeks; brew a pin-bright, single hop Pale and be done with it/them/us. Every brewer reading this should be high-fiving right now.
- UK Common. Got a coolship? Why not brew a steam beer and see if the apocryphal story of how they got their name is true? Especially if we have a warm summer. Part bitter, part story. Ideal UK idea.
- Continental Styles. Expect plenty of German and Belgian styles to be mashed in towards the end of March. For no particular reason…
So those are just a handful of things I think could well happen in the beer industry in 2019 (we have still to be inundated with PET plastic as I confidently predicted in 2015 however. Let me know whether I’m talking sense or rubbish – or both – in the comments and if there’s any pearls of wisdom lurking in the reaches of your brain about what might happen this year, let’s hear them!