Donald Trump, Brexit, Leicester City, Western Bulldogs; 2016 turned out to be a year no one could predict. It makes the SydneyBeer predictions for craft beer in 2016 look all the better.
At the beginning of 2016 I wrote about my predictions for craft beer in 2016. Here’s a look back at the predictions to see what I got right and wrong.
You can weigh in with your comments below if you think I’ve missed something or you don’t agree with my assessment.
One of my predictions at the start of the year was that we’d see a rise in craft lagers. I think I got this right.
Akasha started packaging Tradewind Lager, while Yulli’s won an award for their Seabass Mediterranean Lager, which is now in cans. Wayward’s FUSAMI Victory and Keller Instinct were two of the Camperdown brewery’s first beers to go into package. Grifter have more than one lager available from their brewery taproom while Modus Operandi released a signature lager in keg.
The challenges involved in craft lagers that I noted last year will be fairly obvious to many readers; time, space and money.
That said, it’s clear that many breweries are growing and with that growth comes the ability to invest in what can be a savvy move; brewing an approachable but flavourful lager.
The change has been significant in the last year and it’s demonstrating that Aussies not only still have a thirst for lagers but want them packed with flavour and aroma. In this regard, the Sydney market has been well served in 2016.
The Rise of Sours
Sour beers in their various styles have not taken off quite as much as I thought. While they do seem to be more approachable for wine drinkers due to the acidity, and plenty of people are impressed when trying them for the first time, they’re yet to really hit the mainstream.
That said, beer like Wayward Sourpuss remain a local favourite to the extent that it’s now been packaged. Interstate breweries such as Feral and Boatrocker have caused a stir with their sour beers. The former’s Watermelon Warhead has a continual presence on taps around Sydney and is proving increasingly popular.
Tart and sour beers do seem to be more at the pointy end of the craft beer world but I think it’s a segment that will continue to grow as people discover them on the lists of forward-thinking restaurants or realise they’re a refreshing, sessionable drink that’s perfect for our warm climate.
Beer in Cans
Cans had already kicked off in Sydney this time last year but there’s no denying there’s been huge growth over the past twelve months. The following list of examples is far from comprehensive but still shows a compelling story of the explosion of canned beer in Sydney and across Australia.
- Established canned beers from the likes of Mountain Goat, Pirate Life, Young Henrys and Mornington Peninsula are still going strong.
- Modus Operandi put their core range into cans. The two launch beers, Former Tenant and Modus Pale were quickly added to as the packaged range was extended to include seasonal releases.
- Yulli’s Brews canned some of their beers showing it’s possible for gypsy and contract beer brands. In similar fashion, we’ve recently seen Sauce Brewing launch their brand with two beers in cans.
- Outside of Sydney, Colonial have been wowing people with their 360 degree rip lids. Canberra’s BentSpoke have just launched with the same cans, while Feral have finally started canning some of their beers.
- Nomad Brewing launched some limited releases in cans, including two goses.
- Medhurst & Sons opened as a specialist cider shop with a big focus on craft beer tinnies. The process is still an educative one for punters but early signs are positive.
- Right at the end of the year Lord Nelson released two beers in cans, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks, while Batch released their American Pale Ale and Grifter released their Bright Eye pilsner in cans. Doc also turned to cans for his summer seasonal.
If there’s anything that surprises me it’s that we haven’t seen another core range beer from 4 Pines go into cans. It can’t be far off but perhaps, like Stone & Wood this time last year, their focus is on meeting demand for their bottled beers.
Other 2016 Predictions
Another prediction from earlier in the year was that takeovers and buyouts would continue to rumble on. We haven’t seen a big independent Aussie brewery get taken over this year. Although, rumours still abound within the Aussie and Sydney craft beer scenes and many breweries have come out to rubbish these whispers.
Somewhat nearby, New Zealand’s Panhead was bought by Lion. It’s clear the Kirin-owned company are doing better work in the craft space than certain other corporations but it’s still going to be interesting to see how their strategy unfolds, particular in relation to acquisitions.
The only other notable takeover was the small deal between AB InBev and SABMiller but I’m not sure if that made the news. The impact of that particular transaction is yet to be seen.
Not long before it occurred, and I’m sure while discussions were going on, AB InBev went on an acquisition spree. Their purse strings didn’t stretch as far as Australia but with the reshuffle of portfolios after the merger, and the size of the piggy bank “Megabrew” can crack open, it’s surely only a matter of time until we see an Aussie craft brewery snapped up. Not least because China looks like an increasingly viable market for Australian export.
SydneyBeer’s 2016 Predictions – The Verdict
While my predictions for Sydney’s craft beer scene in 2016 weren’t that outlandish, I think they all cover fairly important developments in the growth of beer and its relationship with consumers.
As far as the accuracy of the predictions is concerned, we can probably call it 50/50. What’s refreshing is that what did eventuate, lagers and canned beer, are far more relevant to new craft beer drinkers than what didn’t, sour beers and corporate takeovers. That can only be a good thing for craft beer in Sydney.
There was at least one trend I didn’t predict. Namely, the improvement in imported beer. Recently we’ve seen Stone beers come in fresher and fresher, while big names like Alesmith and The Bruery have recently come in legitimately.
And while exciting, that’s nothing compared to the fact that Dan Murphy’s is carrying Ballast Point beers, in cans and bottles. These were beers that we couldn’t have imagined having so readily available just a couple of years ago.
Other than that, I didn’t predict Donald Trump. No one predicted Donald Trump.
All up, it’s been a great year for craft beer in Sydney, for the growth of local breweries, and most of all for craft beer drinkers.
Look out for my predictions for 2017 in the new year. I’ll try to be make my predictions more specific this time.
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