It is time to gaze into the crystal ball. Don’t shake it or the yeast will start swirling amidst the hazy IPA inside. Here is what I think could happen in the world of independent beer in 2018.
1. Each year it seems that breweries get the idea that they should sell to the large Los Angeles beer market. We reap the benefit for a few months, but then the distribution flags and poof!; the brewery retreats. I expect this to happen again, but with more breweries flowing out than coming in for the first time.
2. 22-ounce bombers will fade quicker this year as more 16-ounce cans and 32-ounce crowlers take over. We are already seeing the re-emergence of the six-pack as well.
3. Taproom-only releases will start to be seen on beer shop shelves and more kegs will be spotted as well. Beer has to be made to a certain scale and if the beer sits at a brewery too long, it will eventually make its way elsewhere.
4. There will be at least four big buyouts / purchases as consolidation starts to take hold but SABInBev and their High End portfolio might be silent this year.
5.THE BIG ONE – The ramifications from the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act will reverberate throughout the year. Since there is no legal directive as to how the savings can be spent, some breweries may beef up their sales force while others spend on health care and others buy tanks. Even though this is a temporary relief, it will impact what direction craft/independent beer takes for many years.
2017’s final BEER OF THE WEEK comes from State Brewing Company in Gardena. Nice Chucks is a NorthEast (hazy) IPA that is very fruity with just a touch of bitterness despite the long list of hops in the ingredient list (Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic & El Dorado hops). Plus, this beer has one of the cooler beer names around, especially for old school NBA fans.
Your last piece of craft beer HOMEWORK is to choose which new brewery you will visit in January. You can re-visit the L.A. County Brewers Guild website and make a list of uncharted taprooms or plan a trip north to the burgeoning beer areas in Santa Barbara and Ventura or map a much bigger beer territory in San Diego. Whichever direction you choose, California will lead to a new spot and new sampler trays to savor.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.