03 January 2011

Where can craft beer go in 2011?

This is the time of year that people start thinking about the last year and thinking forward to what the new year may hold. I've maintained for a while that the best brewing in the world is happening right here in America, and this might just be the best time ever to be in the world of beer. Craft beer keeps gaining footholds with consumers, bars, big business, and entrepreneurs. That comes with a mixed bag, but as a whole, I am pretty excited about where craft beer is heading.

This is my list of things I think will happen in the new year. If you disagree or agree with me please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

1. The continued rise of barrel-aged beer. This seems to be a huge hot button in the beer world right now, and many people are jumping on the bandwagon. The fact is that you can charge more for the beer, and you will sell it out, even if it's an inferior product. I look at the positives and the negatives here. Many brewers are not that skilled with a barrel yet. When a brewer does know what they are doing with a barrel, it is a thing of beauty. I think I will taste some really terrible barrel aged beer this year, but I think I will have the pleasure of tasting some really fantastic barrel aged beer as well. A few years of this trend should produce some downright amazing beer as more brewers gain a better experience with barrel aged beers.

2. The explosion of sour beer to a whole new level. I think there has always been a pretty good underground appreciation for sour beers from the likes of Russian River, Cantillon, Petrus, Drie Fonteinen, Trinity, Captain Lawrence, The Lost Abbey...etc.... I think you will see many more brewers jump into this arena this year. We already have two pretty outstanding producers of "sour" style beer in Indiana with Brugge Brasserie and Upland Brewing Company. One of my favorites is from Michigan and readily available here in Indiana from Jolly Pumpkin. The sour style category can encompass many beer styles that include Berliner weisse, Flanders red ale, Flanders brown ale, gueuze, and lambics. I am sure you can lump more in there, but those cover the majority of the sour beer categories.

3. More breweries, brewpubs, and nano-breweries up and running. I think there is still plenty of room for production beer shops to be in operation, but I just hope that they have a healthy dose of beer appreciation at heart and not just an entrepreneurial spirit because some think that beer is the "it" thing right now. The flip side is that I think several will shutter this year as well, but if you make a good product and price it right the business should do well.

4. More bars going to the 14 oz. shaker glass. This is the worst trend I am starting to see around the Indy beer market. I've seen several bars going to the 14 oz. shaker glass, but they are still pricing the beer at its original price or in some cases even increasing the price. The glass looks the same as a real 16 oz. pint glass, but it holds two ounces less. Consumers are not stupid, and one bar in town in particular has lost my business forever because of their newly purchased 14 oz. glasses that they continue to call and charge for a "pint" on their menu. I don't care if a bar uses those glasses, but have the common decency to let your patrons know what you are doing to them instead of trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Don't call it a pint on your menu and charge me for a pint, but only deliver 12 ounces of beer with head to my table. It won't be long until I start doing something like this around town.

5. The continued deviation of making separation points in the beer market. What I mean by this is the separation of the sexes. I got into beer because of the social aspect of it, but I've become a craft beer lover because it started from the social experience for me. I don't like seeing the rise of men vs. women craft beer circles. I am not just talking about groups here, but even breweries are starting to market directly to either men or women. I think we are losing a little piece of what makes beer so special, and that is getting together with friends over some great beer and having a good time. Can male and female only events occur? Absolutely. Should we also not forget the social aspects of our favorite libation? It's a joint mentality and not specifically a men vs. women thing.

6. I am not excited about this one either, but the $20 and up bottles of beer. I have seen this trending up for several years, but I think the $20 bomber of beer is here to stay given the success of Upland, Goose Island, Trinity, and several others this year. I am not opposed to paying for quality, but this is a very slippery slope.

Pipe dream wishes for 2011:

1. More great session beer in Indianapolis.
2. Hell's Black Intelligencer from Three Floyd's in six packs or any other lower ABV stout from them in six packs.
3. New Albanian's Beak's Best in six packs.

You know what they say about opinions right?


  1. I don't agree with your comments about Upland. We opened a bottle of their newest offering on NYE and I almost blinded my girlfriend with the explosion of the beer at her face. I got her soaking wet with the lambic that spit a good 10 feet everywhere. I won't be spending 20 bucks on those or spending a tank of gas heading to Bloomington again. I do have to admit I got a good laugh out of it though even if I only got about 1/3 of the beer in my glass and the other 2/3 all over my girlfriend and the floor.

  2. Hmm, I wonder what bar that could be. Anybody willing to give us some clues?

  3. @mark

    I've had other lambics that have done things similar. You can't control Brett very well.

    @beer man

    Sorry, I am not going to out them. I am giving the chance for them to make it right according to the manager.

  4. I like the topic, but I think that your first topic isn't that cutting edge anymore. The rise of barrel aged beers has been the biggest a trend in craft beer for several years. I think that collaborative beers seem to be the newest hot trend. It seems to be emerging quickly, like barrel aging was 3 or 4 years ago. I'm sure barrel aging will continue but collaboration is where many brewers seem to be focusing their most creative energy now.

  5. I agree with you Adam, but I stated the continued rise of barrel aged beer. Plenty of untapped dollars to be made in the barrel aged beer market.


  6. the only good thing about twenty dollar bombers is it will force me to do what I have put off for to long...HOMEBREW!

  7. VERY annoyed at the shaker/cheater pints as well.

    The high prices at bars are annoying, but expected. The stealing of my beer is not.

    Fed up with the beer bar scene in Indy and have been staying at home more and more. I just want some decent draft beer, damnit! Where only some of the taps are year-round Indiana offerings...

  8. To the last anonymous comment - I would personally suggest the Barley Island in Broad Ripple for a reasonably priced pint, plus a few regional beers on tap in addition to their standard Indiana offerings. I have been very impressed at how low they've kept their prices considering their location.

    Other than that, I am very not happy about the ubiquitous Indiana $6 pint. I feel like beer is more expensive here than it is in Chicago.

  9. Beer prices in Indy are getting out of control. Please call out the bar that is using the 14 oz. glasses and calling them pints. They should be punished for their crimes against brewmanity.