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Comment: What will 2015 bring?

Gazing into our crystal ball, here are some of our tips for what might be coming in 2015.

More breweries

The most frequent question we get is how many breweries can the craft beer sector support. With the number currently approaching 300 supplying around 5% of the beer sales market, there is certainly room for many more breweries.

And for two main reasons: costs of expansion and distribution. The cost of brewery expansions is significant and runs into millions of dollars, with even more investment needed in staffing. Whereas the entry level for a new brewery can range from small (contract brewing) through to moderate (hundreds of thousands of dollars). But more importantly is distribution distances. This means that the costs for a local brewery supplying local bars are much lower than a regional or national brewery supplying bars across the country.

One interesting trend in combating this is that currently being undertaken by Young Henrys and their approach of opening satellite operations in, or near the other state capitals. I’m sure a number of other breweries will be watching them with interest.

Customer Feedback and Social Media

With more interest in craft beer, there is ever more chatter on social media about beers, both draught and bottled versions. The smarter breweries will be increasingly tapping into this, both to help refine their beers but also see demand trends to create new beers.

One recent innovative example has been Bright Brewery. They’ve brewed two versions of one beer with differing hop profiles and bitterness levels and are asking customers via social media to tell them which is preferable.

Using social media is also one of the best (and cheapest) methods of building a brand. Black Hops Brewing’s recent launch and their social media campaign is one that will be replicated by many more future breweries.

Fruit Beers and Lager

A big call this one, but as 2014 was the year of the Saison, we predict 2015 will be the year of the Fruit Beer. Whilst the never ending IBU busting IPA trend will probably continue, there is an increasing market for more balanced beers that are “sessionable” and more flavoursome.

So, hopefully breweries will discover the wonders of Belgian Fruit Beers and start producing Australian versions using locally grown fruit. There certainly is more than enough fruit types grown here including the usual cherries and raspberries for this type. As a guide the success of Matso’s Mango and 4 Pines imprint Brookvale Union’s Ginger Beer will hopefully show the demand for a beer that tastes of more than just hops.

To attract an even wider audience, we also see that there is a real need for good lagers of around an ABV of 4% for people to have more than one drink. There are some great one’s appearing that aren’t Pilsners or Kolsch’s such as Mismatch’s Session and Bargara Brewing’s Bright Lager.

Dispense methods to suit beers

So much time is spent by brewers to perfect a beer and it’s style, all of which can be undone by serving the beer through an inappropriate dispense method.

So, we predict an increase in the type of dispense methods to suit different beers. This includes the English Handpump for real ales and porters, Nitro taps for stouts, and even beer being served direct from the cask. And more education by brewers on why handpumps, nitro etc are the best ways to try specific beers. A recent sampling of Young Henrys Real Ale served on a tap proved that the beer was a shadow of itself when served through a handpump.

Beer Festivals

The growing success of GABS and some of the regional beer festivals, and beer weeks shows an increasing demand for beer festivals.

They are great showcases for breweries and allow easy access to a wider range of beers for consumers, and we see the growth of more regional beer festivals to continue the educational aspect of putting craft beer in front of more people that might not otherwise try it.

White Labelling

A term borrowed from the music industry, where one product is sold under many different guises. There are already a few instances of this where a brewery brews one beer which it sells under its own brand and name, but also supplies it to a bar/pub to sell under a different name as a house beer.

With the increase in numbers of bars and even restaurants now having craft beer, we see that they will want to establish some form of uniqueness and differentiation from their competitors and so we see more white label beers appearing.

Backlash?

It may be remote (ish), but we are seeing that there could be the start of a move away from the more successful and larger craft beer brands.

As certain beers and breweries become more successful, the need to expand to meet the demand from drinkers is an economic necessity (and great business sense). And with their beers becoming more and more common, I already see some sections of the craft beer community turning away from them.

And it has nothing to do with quality or taste, it seems to be more about the smaller craft breweries being seen to becoming one of the larger breweries and transitioning from one of “us” to one of “them”.

One clear example is Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale which is now found almost everywhere. And in the beer deserts that still exist it is a delight to have that choice of a wonderful beer, but in those areas that now have a wider range of choices, I see bars looking to try newer beers rather than having the more “common” beers. This is also something I see with Mornington Peninsular, Two Birds, and 4 Pines beers.

Whilst the trend may be more about specific beers rather than the breweries, those breweries that are now expanding rapidly may be (or already are) looking at how they can maintain their “craftiness” associated with small regional breweries rather than being seen to becoming one of the large national semi corporate entities.

We see what happens over the course of the next 12 months.

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