What do the trends and discussion points coming out of 2017’s Hottest 100 beers tell us about the future of the poll and of beer in Australia?
While the Hottest 100 always generates debate, it’s reflective of where our beer market currently sits. It can also point to wider or growing trends.
The Discussion Points & Trends
I spent the countdown with the Sessionable podcast gang at The Royal Albert Hotel. Discussion points there, and around much of the country, came back to a few key topics when thinking about what the Hottest 100 means for Aussie beer.
The topics included:
- The growth of canned beer.
- The growth of New England IPAs and the continued preference for hoppy beers.
- The importance for breweries to have a strong local base and the rise of the taproom experience.
Combine all these components and there’s an exciting future ahead.
A Glimpse At The Brightest Timeline
It might look something like this:
Specialist or volatile beers (such as New England IPAs) sold in cans, direct from the brewery taproom to loyal, local customers who can enjoy the beers when they’re freshest.A glimpse at The Brightest Timeline: Specialist or volatile beers (such as New England IPAs) sold in cans, direct from the brewery taproom to loyal, local customers who can enjoy the beers when they're freshest. Click To Tweet
It’s something we’ve already seen in the US. However, the phenomenon there has been somewhat tainted by queues, breweries underestimating demand, and questionable customer behaviour.
In Australia we have a much smaller market. This smaller market also contains a smaller proportion of hardcore beer nerds. I think our culture is also far more laid back than America. We don’t buy into hype as much.
Impact On The Future Of The Hottest 100
How might this potential shift in a segment of our beer market impact next year’s Hottest 100 list?
Well there’s an interesting contrast between the points above and another theme of 2017’s list. While we saw the rankings of non-independent beers fall individually, the overall number of non-independent beers was up following recent acquisitions.
There’s an obvious tension between a shift to local taproom experiences, a preference for limited release and short-life beers, and the expansion of strong national craft brands.
Small batch beers will never get enough votes to rank in the Hottest 100. And while some of the same producers will also distribute core range beers that will attract votes, it may serve to spread the votes for independent beers more thinly. This could wedge the door open for non-independent beers to gain more places on the list.
As the Australian beer landscape evolves, the Hottest 100 results will keep reflecting popular opinion and national appeal (with non-independent beer playing a significant part). However, it’ll be less and less reflective of the depth and variety that can be found on a local level.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Hottest 100 vote has always been a popularity contest and it will continue to be just that.The @gabsfestival #hottest100beers vote has always been a popularity contest and it will continue to be just that. And that's not a bad thing. Click To Tweet
What It Means For The Australian Beer Landscape
There’s a dichotomy between breweries moving away from the old industrial distribution model that’s not suited to short-life beers, and the desire to rank in the Hottest 100 for the publicity and sales it generates.
What it could mean for Australian beer is a continued stratification of breweries.
It points towards an exciting future with the market serving different and evolving sets of consumers.
There will be breweries that focus on stable, nationally distributed beers. They will appeal to the masses by providing high quality, readily available beer.
Then there will be breweries that aim to deepen their roots at home, serving specialist or small-batch beers to local customers. These smaller producers will make unique and exciting beers unlike anything we’ve seen in Australia before.
The trends and discussion points coming out of the Hottest 100 beers for 2017 suggest that there’s potential in the market for a model that better serves consumer desire for fresh, hop-forward beers. That model is focused around local sales direct to customers. And cans should play a big part.The trends and discussion points coming out of the @gabsfestival #hottest100beers for 2017 suggest that there's potential in the market for a model that better serves consumer desire for fresh, hop-forward beers. Click To Tweet
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