Recently, the Brewer’s Association put out their Year in Review infographic for 2016 showing national beer trends. Here’s the breakdown of the info that they provided: There are now 5005 active breweries in the U.S. and craft beer has grown 8% year-over-year. IPAs account for 1/4 of sales in Craft Beer making it the most dominant style, though 65% of craft beer lovers say that they drink craft because it offers a wider variety of styles than traditional beer. We are shipping more craft beer abroad than ever before, and Portland was named #1 on the Beer Tourism Index (we already have talked about our disdain of the Beer Tourism Index).
None of this is particularly surprising so we thought we would do our own Year in Review and look at some of the beer trends we saw coming out of 2016 that interest us and how they impact the San Diego craft beer community.
2016 was the year that hazy, New England-style IPAs jumped onto the national beer scene making its way to the West Coast. For years, Vermont breweries like The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead have been brewing these juicy, hazy, hoppy IPAs, with the whisperings of this unfiltered brew making their way to the West Coast. Lucky for IPA lovers like us, the style is now appearing all over San Diego beer menus. From Modern Times’ Blam Blam, to beers from Abnormal, Knotty Brewing and even Stone, New England is making itself known as a distinct style here in SD. Pure Project has some of the best SD examples of this style with their Murklands IPA, a hazy pale ale with Citra hops and Murk of the Beast brewed with Nelson, Citra and Mosiac hops. Both are delicious, juicy (as they say) and a delicious turn in the world of IPAs. Even more exciting, keep an eye out for our recent collab brew with Pizza Port of, you guessed it, a hazy IPA!
SD Loves It In The Can
Cans have made a big impact on the SD beer scene this in 2016. Many breweries are choosing to add cans to their offerings or (like we will be doing) going to canning altogether. Coronado Brewing, 32 North, Novo Brazil and Stone are just a few of the breweries who have gotten in the can-game this year. Why cans over bottles? First, they are better for the environment. They are lighter and more compact to ship than bottles, allowing for more to go in each shipment and requiring less fuel to move them. This lowers transportation costs as well as their impact on the environment. Also, cans are recycled at a much higher rate than bottles with cans containing on average 40% recycled material compared to the 27% average in bottles.
Another reason why many breweries have moved to canning is that cans are a superior package to bottles when it comes to preserving the quality of beer. Head Brewer here at Thorn Street Brewery, Scott Smith, explained it simply, “No air, no light…cans are just better for the beer.” Light and oxygen are two factors that play a crucial role in the flavor of the beer, so if they are better controlled with canning, then that means less waste and less of a chance that someone’s going to get a skunked beer.
Slow Growth for Big Craft Beer
San Diego was not immune to the reported slowdown in craft beer sales that we saw this year. While 8% growth is considered quite good in most industries, it’s down from the double-digit growth the industry has enjoyed for the last number of years. Nationwide, Sam Adams (Boston Beer Co.) is struggling, with sales falling from 5% in the first two quarters of 2016 to 8% in the third quarter. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have also experienced their sales dropping this year and Stone Brewery had to lay off 5% of their workforce recently because of less-than-projected-growth.
This is a case of bigger is not always better. In fact, if you removed the biggest craft beer breweries, Boston Beer, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada from the data set, craft sales would actually be up 16% mid-year according to Brewbound. People are turning to more local, more independent beers. Even in the case of Stone, which is local to San Diego, they are getting hurt by people turning to hyper-local breweries to get their craft beer fix. People want the beer that was brewed in their hood, which brings us to our next point…
More Neighborhood Breweries
We love a good neighborhood brewery. Neighborhood breweries are walkable, bikable and surrounded by great restaurants, shops and other things that you can’t get in a business park. 2016 saw more and more breweries in San Diego opening their doors closest to your front door! Barn Brewing in North Park and the long awaited North Park Beer Co. both opened in 2016 along with Burning Beard and Finest Made in El Cajon and Santee respectively. While it’s completely understandable why business parks are the homes of big breweries pushing out thousands of kegs a year, we love the trend of neighborhood breweries opening too. A closer UBER ride is always a good thing!
What beer trends did we miss? Let us know on FB or in the comments here!