It was another great year for craft beer. In June, the Brewers Association reported that there were 2,483 craft breweries in the U.S., the greatest number since the 1870s, and an additional 1,605 were in the works.
But as 2013 came to a close, there were signs that sales were slowing a bit, and several financial stories warned that the craft beer building boom could be headed for a bust.
Here’s a look back on what had beer lovers buzzing in 2013 and a look forward to 2014:
Craft vs. Crafty — In late 2012, the Brewers Association wrote an editorial that attacked international giants Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller for being “crafty” with the marketing of beers such as Shock Top and Blue Moon. The “craft vs. crafty” fight raged on throughout 2013, with beer geeks wondering about favorites such as Goose Island, now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, and questioning whether the Brewers Association’s definition of craft brewing should include its biggest craft brewer, the Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams).
Beer Bill — In Georgia, the failure of a bill that would have allowed breweries and brew pubs to sell a limited amount of the beer they make directly to consumers was a defeat for Georgians for World Class Beer and the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. Those organizations had worked to slightly alter the balance of what’s known as the three-tier system of brewers, distributors and retailers to bring it in line with laws in most other states. Creative Loafing beer writer Austin L. Ray had a good story on the history of the bill and the legislative battle that will brew again next session. And look for an article by the guild’s president, John Pinkerton, in the next issue of Southern Brew News.
Scarce Beer — Another kind of fight continues to put retailers in the middle, as brewers release small numbers of rare, one-off and seasonal beers, and beer geeks swarm stores in search of the scarce stuff. Terrapin’s Cinnamon Rolled Wake-n-Bake was one of the most talked about and sought out this season. “Starting with a delicious coffee aroma, a touch of cinnamon gives way to a sugary sweet icing flavor as a buttery nuttiness fills out the last drop of this breakfast in a glass” is how Terrapin described the beer. Apparently, that was enough to create a shopping frenzy.
Style Trends — Big, hoppy IPA remains the craft beer staple. But sour beers continued to tempt adventurous beer lovers. South Carolina’s Westbrook had a surprise hit with its low-alcohol canned Gose (pronounced “gose-uh”), a version of the traditional German-style sour wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt. Beyond the profusion of canned and lower alcohol “session” beers, barrel-aged beers continued to occupy a special place on the opposite end of the flavor spectrum. It seems almost every brewery is offering some kind of strong ale aged in whiskey, rum or wine casks now.
New Breweries — Monday Night opened to the public for the first time in January with tours at the Westside brewery and tastes of its three signature beers. Since then, its beers have become ubiquitous around Atlanta, with the newest, Blind Pirate Double IPA, in the mix. Jekyll Brewing became the first packaging brewery in Alpharetta when it opened in August, after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Its beer roster includes the popular Hop Dang Diggity, billed as a “Southern IPA.” Three Taverns opened in Decatur in October, offering its Belgian-style Single Intent blonde ale and A Night in Brussels IPA. Recently, it released two more Belgian-style beers, White Hops white IPA and Theophan the Recluse Russian imperial stout
2014 Breweries — This year could see the opening of at least seven breweries in Georgia: Creature Comforts and Southern Brewing in Athens; Second Self and Wild Heaven in Decatur; Eventide and Orpheus in Atlanta; and Service Brewing in Savannah.
North Carolina — Neighboring North Carolina, and Asheville in particular, continues to charm Atlanta beer lovers. In 2013, Wicked Weed was the much buzzed about destination. And expect to see California’s Sierra Nevada open its grand new brewery outside of Asheville in 2014.
What did I miss? What were the big beer stories and trends of 2013? What will be on tap in 2014?
— By Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog