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Outlook For Craft Beer in the Coming Year Looks Bright

19 Jan

In its annual forecast for the beer industry, Beer Business Daily (BBD) foresees a slight improvement in beer sales volumes over 2011 with growth rising from -1.5% to remaining down but only at -1%. It also predicts that price increases will amount to only 2.5%

These numbers may sound disappointing, but keep in mind; they are mostly applicable to the mega producers like Anhueser-Bush and Miller/Coors. These giants will continue their missions to seek out craft breweries to snap up or invest heavily in over the next year in an attempt to shore up the losses being cause by the craft beer movement.

The report goes on to predict that craft beers will continue growing at double-digit rates. For some smaller breweries this may create a supply vs. demand issue. To a limited extent we have already seen this in Jacksonville with the demand of certain locally-brewed beers like Intuition Ale Works’ I-10 IPA out-pacing supply. Breweries are already planning for expansions to help ease supp0ly side shortages.

BBD also predicts a resurgence of ciders this year with brands like Crispin’s Artisanal Reserves ciders that are unfiltered and fermented with beer yeasts to create a bold flavor. Cider brands both domestic and imported are poised for a resurgence and re-entry into the mainstream as brewers eye new flavors and challenges for the coming year.

The coming year will see Sierra Nevada and New Belgium breaking ground on east coast breweries, but beer production will not come on line in these two breweries for a year or more. The result of these two big-boys in the craft world opening on the east coast will be fresher product and greater distribution. New Belgium beers will undoubtedly become more available in Florida which is good news for us.

Import beer will continue to gain momentum as beer drinkers reach out for authentic beers rather than beers brewed in the style of others. Belgian beers in particular will continue strong popularity as the country’s 400 breweries continue to open their distribution to the United States. A recent example of this is the Bon Secours beers available at Total Wine as of a few weeks ago.

On the negative side of craft brewing, smaller and regional brewers will begin to feel the pressure of crowding in the market place. As more and more of the 900 planned breweries come online this year, established breweries may find that they will have to work harder to retain their customer base rather than lose drinkers to the newest, hottest brewery.

All-in-all, the craft industry can look forward to another great year of growth, but should keep a watchful eye on growing competition and the predatory mega brewers. For beer drinkers the next year will be an exciting one with many new and interesting brews coming to market.

My advice, keep an eye on my blog for a heads up on what is new and noteworthy and troll the shelves of local beer purveyors like Grass Roots in 5-Points, Total Wine in St. John’s Town Center, and all the Broudy’s locations. Also, frequent the restaurants in Jacksonville that are making great efforts to provide unique and interesting craft beers. A restaurant like Kickback’s, Pele’s Wood Fire, Carmine’s Pie House, and the soon-to-be-open Dahlia’s Pour House in Riverside/Avondale. And, of course visit your local breweries and see what is new and exciting in their tap rooms. Visit Ben and the gang at Intuition Ale Works, Eric at Green Room, swing by Engine 15 and try the new brews they are making, Susan and Brian at Bold City, Vance at Mile Marker in St. Augustine, and Troy at Brewer’s Pizza.

2012 is shaping up to be another banner year for craft brewers and craft brew lovers. Keep the movement going and visit your favorite local brewery often. You will find me on the corner at Intuition Ale Works most weekdays from about 3:30 to 5:30.

Until next time.

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

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