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2017 - What to Expect in Craft Beer

by Scott Oeffling on December 1

What can craft beer fans expect in the New Year? It's always fun to gauge some of the trends and share some of the news that comes out of the industry, as well as watch what happens with numbers - independent breweries that open, collaborate, close, expand, you name it.

What will 2016 be remembered for? US Bank Stadium opens and features a craft beer program. Surly's longtime head of brewing operations Todd Haug steps down. Five Minnesota breweries win at the Great American Beer Festival. Fulton hosts a "death to the growler" party. We can't wait to see what 2017 has in store - here are some anticipated themes.

 

We've Seen the Future, and It's Aluminum

BERNICKS_2017Craft_Dec16.jpgIt's all about the packaging. Cans are becoming increasingly popular packaging options for breweries, and 2017 will see a significant shift in the way beer is distributed. Cans offer a modest way to update branding without straying too far from the original mission and intent. Cans are cheaper, more portable, chills beer faster, and keeps brews fresher longer than bottles can. 
 
For 25 years, Fort Collins, CO-based brewery New Belgium has been bottling and canning its line of beers, including their flagship Fat Tire amber ale. In the works is a new beer, Dayblazer which is labeled as an "easygoing ale" with less than five percent ABV. The beer will exclusively be distributed in cans. Additionally, there are artwork variants that include both a 12-ounce can and a 24-ounce can, which will be a completely new can size for New Belgium.
 

Locally, Beaver Island Brewing Co. of St. Cloud, MN has announced plans for expansion in 2017, having broken ground on its new 10,000-sq. ft. distribution facility east of their current downtown taproom location. Currently the brewery serves central Minnesota, Brainerd, and Duluth via kegs. The expansion includes plans to can, and co-founder Nick Barth said, "When you start talking about packaged products like bottles or cans, you just need a bigger footprint. They just take up more space for warehousing and storage. And rather than trying to do off-site storage, we realized we just need a bigger footprint."

 

It's Not a Beer, It's a Destination 

Craft beer isn't just a beverage; it's a cultural phenomenom. I've talked about the community piece associated with independent breweries, and how fans and supporters are an integral piece of the success story. Breweries continue to make beer to appeal to consumers' tastes and preferences, but that's not the only element where they're considering the user. Last spring, Finnegan's broke ground on a three-story brewery/hotel complex in downtown Minneapolis. Already nicknamed the "Brewtel", the building will be the first of its kind in the state and will include a 17-story apartment tower, a park, a seven-story boutique hotel, and the new Finnegans microbrewery. While obviously appealing to the general public, this project will also grant Finnegans the necessary ability to shift all production from Summit Brewing in St. Paul, where it currently contracts all brewing operation, to the new brewery in Minneapolis. 
 
Craft beer is also very much about events and celebration. Some of the state's annual festivals include:

And this is just a sampling of what goes on from different corners of Minnesota - there are plenty of others!

Will the Bubble - if There is One - Burst?

Is oversaturation a risk to the craft beer industry? Consider that three years ago, there were roughly 2,500 breweries in the U.S. Now there's close to 4,400. That's a 92 percent increase. Now, the fact that I'm even writing a forecasting blog for 2017 and the state of craft beer alludes to the fact that no, craft beer isn't going anywhere. But, in all honesty, how much more can the category expand? And is it approaching a bubble? The Brewers Association predicts steady growth without a mere bubble in sight to 20 percent volume share of the overall beer market by 2020. Craft beer relies on its drinkers to continue fostering growth, and customer appeal is still very strong.

While sustaining growth, the craft boom has slowed in 2016, and at the halfway point in the year a midyear review was conducted on the industry, and an eight percent growth was shown. At that point, 13 million barrels of craft beer had been produced. The Brewers Association's chief economist Bart Watson said, “While the craft brewing industry is entering a period of maturation, most markets are not near saturation. As craft’s base gets larger, as with any industry, it becomes more difficult for it to grow at the same percentage rate. Yet there is still tremendous dynamism reflected in eight percent growth for craft.” 


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Topics: Beer, Craft Beer

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