After staring deep into his crystal ball, Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson has provided a look at how beer style trends might develop in 2017 and, if he’s right, there could be more sessionable offerings on the way.
After admitting that predicting future drinking tendencies is “pretty darn hard,” Watson said that, given recent trends, continued growth in the IPA and golden ale categories is likely.
“If anything, IPA’s importance for the craft industry only increased in 2016,” he wrote in a recent blog post on the BA website.
Using data from market research firm IRI Worldwide, Watson found that more than 5.1 million incremental cases of IPA were added in 2016.
Unpacking the data set even further, Watson noted that BA-defined craft brewers also added more than 1 million cases of “other styles.” Simultaneously, however, non-IPA brands from large brewery-owned craft outfits actually declined by more than 1.6 million cases.
“Rumors of the demise of independent brewers have been greatly exaggerated,” Watson wrote. “Even in the face of numerous acquisitions, small and independent brewers still accounted for 80% of the new growth in scan this year.”
Watson suggested that those declines could be part of a broader strategy shift, as large beer companies focus more of their attention and investment on growing within the “fuller-flavored space,” he said.
“Although IPA will clearly still need to be a central part of the growth strategy for all brewers, these findings also suggest that many independent brewers may encounter fewer headwinds outside the style,” he wrote.
In addition to golden and blonde ales, independent craft brewers should look for growth opportunities in the pilsner and pale lager categories, Watson said.
“In all, these three styles represent a bit more than one-third of BA craft’s incremental growth in scan,” he wrote.