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Country’s Rising Breweries Reflect on 2016 and Look Ahead to 2017

Country’s Rising Breweries Reflect on 2016 and Look Ahead to 2017
Mike Zoller

Photo courtesy of Corridor Brewery.

As 2016 comes to an end, we connected with a handful of brewmasters from around the country to reflect on this past year and what 2017 will bring for not only their breweries but the craft beer industry in general. We were able to catch up with some of the most admiral people in the business – from Moody Tongue Brewing Company, Dry Hop, Creature Comforts Brewing Co.Corridor Brewery, Bluejacket, Jester King Brewing, Flying Bike Cooperative BreweryAngel City Brewery, Coastal Empire Beer Co., MadTree Brewing, Burial Beer, Fremont Brewing, and SweetWater Brewing Co.

What was your favorite beer you brewed this year?

“I am pretty sure I drank the entire batch of our Shadowclock Pilsner.” – Jessica Reiser, Burial Beer

I’ll take “things that make ya say hell yeah” for $1000, Alex. #craftbeer #avlbeer #shadowclockpilsner

A photo posted by Bennett Campbell (@_brewkowski) on

 

“Second Helping, a damn tasty beer but more importantly it is for a great cause – SweetWater and our Atlanta distributor, United, donate 100% of profit from this IPA [brewed] with juniper berries to The Giving Kitchen, a non-profit that helps out restaurant industry workers in times of need.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

 

“This year we introduced the Smoked Applewood Gold, which was an exciting addition to our perennial line-up. I am a huge fan of both barbecue and oysters, and this beer naturally pairs well with both. The icing on the cake (no pun intended) was the discovery that this beer also pairs well with our German chocolate cake in the Tasting Room. If I can find a beer that pairs well with barbecue, oysters and cake — I’m definitely a happy guy.” – Jared Rouben, Moody Tongue Brewing

“The entire Field to Ferment Fresh Hop series. This seasonal beer explored the fresh hop character of the classic Centennial hop, the rock star Simcoe(TM), and the punk kids of Citra(TM) and Mosaic(TM). We worked for a year with our hop farmers to plan this beer, from the planting to the month-long transport of the hops from the field to kettle. Our folks ran trucks from 3am to 11 am each brew day between Yakima and Fremont to get the hops in the kettle within a few hours of harvest. All told, we brewed with over 25,000 pounds of fresh hops throughout the entire harvest. It was awesome…Because Fresh Hop Beers Matter!” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“Transmission Citrus Saison” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

Creature Comforts Brewing Co. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Transmission Collaboration Brewmasters 2016
Courtesy Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

“Watermelon Gose.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

Gravity Growlers Terrapin Beer Co. Watermelon Gose
Courtesy Johnathan Pylant

“Launching the Mothership program at Corridor was the most fun brewing I had this year. Funkadelic #1 was the launch of that program and I think we nailed what we were shooting for right out of the gate. At DryHop I really enjoyed Sidewalks of Chicago the smoked pineapple lager we brewed in collaboration with Big Star. It was the perfect patio beer.” – Brant Dubovick, Dry Hop/Corridor Brewing

We celebrate #nationalbeerday every day. Cheers, friends!

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“Coco Piña Gose” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

“A very tough question, but I am loving 85 Vagabond, this massive Double IPA that we finished with fresh, locally-sourced pawpaws; this brew also received the most intense dry-hopping we have done to date. The juicy, banana-mango-pineapple character of the fruit melds beautifully with the notes of citrus, pepper, white wine and pine contributed by Hallertau Blanc, Pacific Jade, Mosaic and Citra.” – Greg Engert, Bluejacket 

“My answer answer to that question is always ‘Don’t make me choose – they’re my children.’ …But I think I do have a ready-made answer to that question because of what’s happened recently…I was on jury duty when my Assistant Brewer, Scott Jensen, and [some friends] got together in my absence to brew a variation of our rye saison which has juniper and sage…So I was stuck on a two-week trial and on a Thursday it wrapped up and I came in on a Friday and I looked in the mash tun and there was a juniper tree in the mash tun. I said, “What’s going on in my brewery?” And they said, “Kevin, go sit down and have a cup of coffee and we’ll get back to you when we need you,” which is like, never. And they made this amazing beer.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“Our new Honor ‘Night Vision’ maple porter, just released Monday!” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

honor night vision maple porter
Courtesy Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

We celebrated a milestone here at Angel City Brewery, in June we brewed our 1,000th batch of beer. To commemorate it, we crafted a hefty Belgian Quad with 12% ABV and 25 IBUs. This Quad, named Quadratic Formula, sat in brandy barrels for four months to give it a super smooth and malty flavor with all the hallmarks of a Belgian Strong Ale. This celebratory ale is currently available it at the Brewery Public House and is my favorite holiday sipping choice.” – Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

“Chamomile Levanto. In April of this year we held “Funk Day” at MadTree in which we released our first set of barrel-aged American sour ales. Chamomile Levanto was the star for me. Aged in white wine barrels for 1.5 years with chamomile, hibiscus, and raspberries, the beer has a clean manageable acidity with bright funky botanical aromatics.” – Brady Duncan, Madtree Brewing

#Fobab well underway. Chicago’s first taste of MadTree. #madtreebrewing #chamomilelevanto

A photo posted by Ryan Blevins (@madtree_ryan) on

 

“Although it was brewed in 2013, 2014, and 2015, I’d have to say 2016 SPON — Méthode Gueuze” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

Jester King Spon
Photo from Jester King Brewery

“3 Under Par, our Belgian Tripel. Clocks in at 9%, with great apricot and stone fruit aromas. It was such a hit in the tasting room that we put it on the big system.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

River Watch Brewery
Mother/daughter duo from River Watch Brewery. Anne Sloan, Director of Sales and Marketing, and Brey Sloan, Owner/Brewmaster. Courtesy River Watch Brewery.

“We did our first kettle sour, a Berliner Weisse this year that turned out really nice.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“There Are Rules, a golden sour with raspberries, peaches and apricots, is probably my favorite beer we brewed this year. It has a nice light and balanced tropical fruit character that creates something more than the individual fruits themselves.” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

How would you describe this past year for your brewery?

“The past year was exciting. We have been looking forward to opening the tasting room for quite some time — and now we can share cake, beer and oysters with the community.” – Jared Rouben, Moody Tongue Brewing

“Without a doubt, the commissioning of our new 80 BBL Huppman Brewhouse in our new brewery. A close second is the introduction of 12-packs…and all the amazing folks who work at Fremont.” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“We expanded production so along with that came distribution and sales both in our home state of NC as well as to other states.” – Jessica Reiser, Burial Beer

Calm, which I take as a great victory. No upheaval at either location. Both our lead brewers Adrian Vidaurre and Danny Monnot are producing clean and killer beers. They both are starting to take on a larger role in recipe development. This frees me up to set up cool collaborations and some more quirky brews. Also, who knows? Maybe we’ll be talking about some cool future project in 2017.” – Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

“2016 was an amazing year for Bluejacket. We increased production and sales, refined some of our most popular brands, created a slew of exciting new beers, and discovered some very effective techniques for increasing flavor impact. We are primed for a big 2017.” – Greg Engert, Bluejacket

“A lot of work and a lot of fun.” [Editor’s note: Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery opened to the public on August 15, 2015.] “It is a true coop; that makes things different. It’s a great group of people who have been working on this for a long time. I was the last piece of the puzzle. They had everything pretty much together and planned before they starting interviewing brewers about a year and a half ago.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“Amazing! We made a lot of great beers for our Public House and Warehouse Collection like Duck and Cover Double Double IPA, Salted Caramel Gose and a Jameson collaboration Barrel-Aged Imperial Red Ale. Additionally, we launched statewide distribution of our two most popular beers, Angel City IPA and Pilsner. It has been exciting to see all of California enjoying what we brew in our Arts District home.” – Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

Busy! Between beer making, starting a farm, and events abroad, 2016 went by very fast.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

What was the biggest area of growth or change for your brewery in 2016?

“The Woodlands, our new and exciting barrel aging facility. It is opening up lots of opportunities for us to challenge ourselves with more progressive styles, and broadening our horizons in many ways.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“We’ve been growing exponentially. [The] biggest change was allowing souring to take place in our production facility.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

“Without a doubt, the commissioning of our new 80 BBL Huppman Brewhouse in our new brewery. A close second is the introduction of 12-packs…and all the amazing folks who work at Fremont.” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“It was our first full year of putting all of our seasonal beer into cans, and also of the introduction of our new 30bbl innovation program, it was a lot of work orchestrating all the launches and getting the can designs done. A lot goes into bringing a new beer to market.” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

“Coco Piña was our fastest growing skew and we expanded into north Florida.” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

“The biggest area of growth was in new markets like Georgia and Florida. Also, the introductions to cans in our portfolio.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

“We just opened in 2016, so pretty much everything was growth and change.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“We added a bigger faster canning line that helped up production and consistency with our packaging.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“We’re always focusing on quality, but we recently doubled down on that and hired a QA/QC Manager this year. You have to maintain quality in order to grow the right way.” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

How has the beer industry changed most in 2016?

“The pace of change in this industry is crazy. Two things we are seeing in Ohio. 1) Taprooms are now everywhere. 2) There are tons of smaller breweries (500-5,000 barrels per year) distributing draft beer to accounts. This competition is great but it is also putting a lot of pressure on beer buyers to figure out what to carry.” – Brady Duncan, MadTree Brewing.

“There are so many breweries out there now, so we cannot all brew the same thing. To keep it interesting, you need to think outside of the box and be more creative than ever, while also delivering a delicious, consistent, quality product.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

Nick Nock SweetWater Brewing Co.
Nick Nock, Head Brewer at SweetWater Brewing Co.
Courtesy SweetWater Brewing Co.

“There has been constant additions to the number of breweries and the scope of “local” brewery has changed. With this influx comes many different opinions and interpretations of styles. We have seen more variance, or “out of the box”, in the beers available this year.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

“People are starting to bare their teeth a little more. It’s not the big love fest it was a few years ago. Overall we are still a happy family, but there are cracks starting to form in the foundation.” – Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

“The focus of craft breweries has become hyper-local.” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

2016 saw the inevitable slow down of craft’s growth, along with continued consolidation and acquisition from within and without. All the while 1500 or so new breweries opened, bringing the national count to just over 5000. And while, by comparison, very few breweries closed, a number of larger craft brewers will show very little, if any, growth over the past year. Local beer continues to thrive, and while that market is becoming more crowded, nothing compares to the now far overcrowded shelves and draft lines encountered by regional and national craft brands around the country.” Greg Engert, Bluejacket

“It is really more of the same change. There continues to be more focus on hyper-local brands, but simultaneously a more educated consumer who is demanding high quality in the end product, as they should!  It is not enough to just be hyper-local anymore, you have to be making high-quality beer consistently to really compete. Luckily for us in Georgia, we have a lot of really great breweries!” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

“The continued extraordinary explosion of small breweries…For years, I’ve been asking when the slowdown comes.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“For us, the biggest change has been on the retail and distribution side. Retail partners only have so much shelf space and there’s a limited number of quality distributors. This is going to continue to be a challenge moving forward.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

“I think the biggest change is the sheer growth of the brewing industry. According to the Brewers Association, there are now over 5,000 breweries in the USA. That is mind-blowing to me seeing as there were 1,500 breweries just ten years ago.” – Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

“I think interest among beer drinkers in new beers has waned somewhat due to the sheer number of new releases. While I think craft beer is very strong and isn’t going anywhere, I think the high level of enthusiasm and interest we’ve seen over the last several years is calming down a little bit.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

“More saturation. Hops have been a real issue – trying to contract out but a lot of great hops are just not available to new, small breweries.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“The tap handle game continues to change. With more brands available from more breweries the tap handles rotate even more, a little more maintenance of accounts is needed.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“There are a lot more kettle sours out there these days.” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

What was this year’s biggest surprise in craft beer?

“There are so many craft breweries open now, with few signs of the industry slowing down. That’s a lot different from a short time ago. It is a good surprise.”  – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“Honestly, [I’m] not really shocked at anything that transpires now. So much has changed from 15 years ago when I started in craft brewing. Each year brings out something new.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

“The number of breweries purchased by AB InBev.” – Jessica Reiser, Burial Beer

“Todd Haug moving to 3 Floyds from Surly. Great brewer and a perfect fit for both parties.” – Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

“It’s not a surprise, but I’m heartened by the rise of craft in the South and Southeast.” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“How the large can manufacturers basically dumped all the small craft breweries, forcing all of us to find alternatives very rapidly.” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

I don’t know if I’d call it the biggest surprise, but it has certainly been interesting to watch the craft beer market change as it further enters the mainstream. With more and more drinkers turning to craft, they are mostly turning to two broad flavor profiles, hoppy and crisp. According to the Brewers Association, IPA continues to dominate, accounting for roughly one-quarter of craft beer volume, while sales of refreshing Pilsners, Pale Lagers and Golden Ales are increasing dramatically. We’ve long known that interest in malty British styles, say, or smoky German Rauchbiers had and could likely continue to wane, but I don’t think we expected that stylistic tunnel vision would narrow to exclude the newly vaulted sour ales, along with classic Belgian ales and even roasty Stouts and Porters.” – Greg Engert, Bluejacket

“Speaking of our area, the continued extraordinary explosion of small breweries. Really, not just in Seattle but in this area – Ballard area – and beyond in Seattle, it’s just been extraordinary.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“For us, [it has] been the multiunit to chain operators in the restaurant industry. These restaurants have been slow to adopt craft beer into their product set. There are so many great options in craft beer [but] only so many taps to be had or space in the coolers. However, the industry is starting to realize craft beer is for real and they need to look at adopting it into their product mix.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

The incredible rise of kettle souring. I’m amazed at how popular and widespread it has become.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

“The growth in popularity of sours.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“I don’t think anything really surprised me. I think it’s crazy to see that growth, while nationally hasn’t hit the numbers in past years, is still booming. New breweries are opening and many are expanding. We were the 4th in Charleston and now there are 17.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

What’s one thing you would have done differently in 2016?

Spoken louder about the importance of Independent Brewers. – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“Personally, slowed down.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“We would have started the 30bbl innovation program sooner. It has really provided a much-needed variety in our taproom, and a great opportunity for us to experiment with more recipes and beers styles.”  – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

Creature Comforts Taproom
Courtesy Creature Comforts

“So many things. Drink less, exercise more. There’s always next year. I wish we could have produced more Blood Orange PsycHOPathy. The beer turned out fantastic and the packaging was as good as the liquid. It filled our Pumpkin beer slot and sold much better than I anticipated.” – Brady Duncan, MadTree Brewing.

“The Watermelon Gose went over so well, we could have done it as a year-round sour. But, there is value in a misstep as long as you learn from it. No, Watermelon Gose won’t be year-round, but stay tuned for some new releases.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

“Launch Coco Piña into cans at the beginning of the summer versus in late summer.” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co. (Editors Note: Coco Piña had previously been available as a draft specialty only.)

Coastal Empire Beer Co. Coco Pina Gose
Courtesy Johnathan Pylant

One thing we will continue to do in 2017 will be to use only fresh, largely locally-grown, whole fruit in our beers. What I will definitely need to change for the future is getting out ahead with projections and new sourcing opportunities so that we can keep up with demand on our fruited tart and funky brews, The demand for these beers boomed last year, while seasonal availability shortened in many cases, so we will be arranging our production and purchasing schedules to better keep up with demand on beers that utilize such fickle ingredients.” Greg Engert – Bluejacket

I think we’ve done very well, we’ve made some good decisions. We’ve tried to grow organically. We have limitations and we don’t want to grow too fast. We’re so young and we just wanted to make sure this would work as a room, as a brewery, and it has worked. Even now, we’re in the middle of winter and yet people keep showing up every day. We have always had good ideas about what we would like to do next, or what we would have liked to do if we felt we had more resources. We wanted to establish ourselves within our means, our modest means, and then grow from there. So as a brewer, I’ve always wanted a brite tank…but the fact is we can do quite well with what we have. But that would be a next step.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

These guys! #gabf #beer #flyingbikecooperativebrewery

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“Hired more people.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

Probably spend a little less time away from the brewery attending beer events. What we do at the brewery is most important.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

“I would have planned a much larger tasting room.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“Slowed down a little. We were in a push to max out our current facility to keep up with demand and tried all kinds of things to get more beer out. At the end of the year we really couldn’t get more out without cutting corners, which wasn’t an option. So, now that I have a better understanding of our limites, I think 2017 will be a little less stressful.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“While I love traveling for work, I probably should have stayed back at our barrel house a little more!” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

What does 2017 hold for your brewery?

“Growth. Getting The Woodlands grounded and going here at home, plus spreading SweetWater cheer to new folks in new markets.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

This coming year, we look forward to continuing to make delicious beer, taking care of our guests in the tasting room and exploring new beer and food pairings.” – Jared Rouben, Moody Tongue Brewing

“MadTree 2.0. It’s going to be a crazy year. New 100bbl brewhouse, taproom, outdoor beer garden, private event spaces, and of course, more parking and bathrooms. It’s located in the Oakley neighborhood of Cincinnati, less than a mile where the MadTree idea started in my partner Kenny’s basement.” – Brady Duncan, MadTree Brewing

MadTree Brewing 2.0
MadTree Brewing 2.0

 

“Well, we will finally get Reclaimed Rye into cans in 2017! It is our only year-round beer that we have not been offering in a can format. We are currently maxed out from a production standpoint in our existing brewery footprint, so we will be actively working on finding the best solution to help us meet the growing demand in Georgia, and that will be the biggest news to come from us in 2017, I imagine. Otherwise, it will really be the continuation of our limited release projects, from the 30bbl innovation program, and there will be a lot of exciting stuff coming from our barrel program that has been in the works for a long time.” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

“We finally get to integrate our work with our local hop and barley farmers into our mixed fermentation beers and brew into our foeders from Foeder Crafters.” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“More collabs. Starting to crank out more mixed fermentation beers. Starting to breath a bit (but just a bit).” – Jessica Reiser, Burial Beer

“Growth (as has been the [norm] for a few years). We’ll be getting some new fermenters, a new waste water treatment plant, AND we’ll start brewing at our Brew Lab in Suntrust Park.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

(MORE: Atlanta Braves Announces Terrapin Taproom & ATL Brew Lab at Suntrust Park)

Photo courtesy of Terrapin Beer Co.
Photo courtesy of Terrapin Beer Co.

At DryHop we are starting to see beers that we need to bring back. All our guests and especially the regulars have their favorite and want it back on draft. So, we are starting to see a little more stability in what is expected to be on draft. However, we do have some interesting collaborations in the works that we hope to pull off for Chicago Craft Beer Week and beyond. With Corridor we are still relatively in our infancy and getting our legs. We are looking forward to experimenting with brettanomyces a little more, especially in bottle conditioning. Also, I am pretty excited to start brewing a few more lagers. We are going to dedicate a draft line to a traditional lager.” – Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

“We look to continue our sales growth and launch at least 5 new brews. Some will be cans and kegs and others will be kegs only. We are going to expand our sour offerings.” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

2017 will be a huge year for Bluejacket. We are increasing production on-site so that we can begin limited distribution in DC and the local market, as well as to ship a little bit of beer out to some of our favorite bars, restaurants, shops and festivals located further afield. Our barrel aging program, for sour and clean beers, is expanding along with our spontaneous fermentation project. We are discussing adding canned beers to our package offering as well. All of this will be happening with our new Head Brewer, whom we are extremely excited to announce, but not until next year.” – Greg Engert, Bluejacket

“To continue this growth, I think I will finally get my brite tank. We’re continuing to understand that we have a great audience here. They’re very knowledgeable and curious about beer. We’re learning not to apologize; we’re learning to take chances. My assistant brewer Scott Jensen and I have learned that when we’re designing a beer, maybe tweaking a beer in the process, there’s often a question of whether we want to take a chance – whether what we’re doing is a little too weird, or too challenging, or we’re using a hop that we’re not familiar with and we’re wondering whether to trust that hop and see what happens. We’re learning over and over again that we can trust our audience. They support us in our creativity, so that is a trend that we are definitely going to continue. And we’re looking forward to what we can do with that.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“Few new craft beers, continued focus on the multiunit restaurant operators and focus on helping our charities of the fallen and injured raise more money!” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

Doing what we do best, brewing great beer! Angel City will be releasing a lot more specialty one-off beers to the local LA market along with some new bottle releases. Keep your eye out for Citrus Wheat, Rauchbier (smoked lager), and Oolong Saison.” Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

#DTLA 🍺

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“Bottling capability starting in February, and an expansion of distribution to SC and the rest of GA.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“Hopefully, an expansion; we are working on something big right now.”- Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“We’re going to be exploring a lot more with specialty barrels.” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

What’s going to be the next big craft beer trend in 2017?

“Interesting herbs as ingredients.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“I am not sure that it will be new, but I think we will see continued growth in the fruited sour category, especially the fruited kettle sours.” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

“The sky’s the limit. No one can assume what the consumers want or what the hipsters make ‘cool’.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

Lagers! Brewers and consumers, please help me make this prediction come true. I do think there will be more of a continued resurgence of lagers. However, in reality I think the East Coast/New England IPA train is going to continue to roll. It seems that this style has made the IPA style even more dominant. If that’s possible?” – Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

“The continued growth of sours.” – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

I think we will continue to see more and more brewers come out with their version of the hazy, aromatic New England-style IPA. My hope is that consumers demand high quality from the style as it becomes ubiquitous and that those lacking in flavor complexity and character go by the wayside. I also hope that brewers keep the availability down, so that these kinds of hoppy brews are consumed the only way they should be: hyper-fresh, and within 2-3 weeks of packaging, at most.” – Greg Engert, Bluejacket

“I’m interested in the New England IPAs or Northeast IPAs that people are doing these days. We’ve done a loosely interpreted example of that style here that we really enjoyed drinking and our customers liked.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“We believe cans will continue to rise, trend will continue with “different” flavors and consolidation. We think the market will see many more “partnerships.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

Currently, Northeast-style IPAs and sour beers, like a Gose, are becoming popular as people have started reaching for a beer style that might not be their typical choice. As a brewer, I like taking traditional styles of beer and tweaking them with some new ingredients. Hopefully, that becomes a new trend in 2017.” Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

“I think pale lagers are becoming more common, which is great! While maybe not a “big” trend, I think smoked beers are becoming more popular.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

“I think traditional German and Belgian styles – they are much harder to make well.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“No idea. From our perspective, darker beer sales, other than our Porter, have dropped a little. So, maybe an increase in the trend of sours, blondes, fruited beer, and session IPA’s.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

What’s one other rising brewery to keep an eye on in 2017?

“Not sure. I do not get out much.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“All of them. Don’t ever count anyone out.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

Burnt Hickory Brewing. They put out some amazing brews and continue to innovate.”  – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

“There are really just so many out there, but one that really stood out to me this year was Alvarado Street Brewery. They opened in 2014, but this was the first year I got to try their beer, and everything I had blew me away. The best IPA I had all year came from them.” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

“Transmitter Brewing out of Long Island City, NY” – Jessica Reiser, Burial Beer

“Without a doubt, Sole Artisan Ales. This guy is releasing some very “cult” following craft beers.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

3 Floyds with Surly‘s ex-brewer… can’t wait! Also, Crane Brewery in Kansas City. Really interesting stuff coming out of there.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“Around here, I would say the guys at Two Blokes have a good thing going.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“Holy Mountain.” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

“Can’t name just one. I’ll mention a few. I discovered Creature Comforts early in 2016 and appreciate everything about their brand and beer. I guess you could say they are already rising fast. Columbus Brewing Company makes phenomenal beer. Even though they sell a decent amount of beer in Columbus and Cleveland, they still fly under the radar a bit. I visited Coppertail in Tampa this year and was impressed with everything there. The beer was on point and featured a wide variety. I’m in love with the taproom aesthetics. I also appreciated the brewery design – they don’t cut corners.” – Brady Duncan, MadTree Brewing

Do you see more small breweries being bought out? Is this a good/bad thing for craft beer?

Of course. It’s not as cut and dry as good or bad, it’s just a “thing.” It depends on what vantage point you look at it from. As a brewery owner or brewer it could be a great thing. From an owner’s standpoint you are looking toward the future for not only yourself and your family, but your employees. As a brewer with the influx of capital it can lead to shiny new toys or possibly a better salary with better benefits. As a consumer a lot of times you look at it as losing something that was special. Something that only you and a select few knew about. Craft beer is very similar in its ethos as punk rock and the DIY movement, and a lot of our customer base looks at like we are “selling out.” However, when that major label comes around flashing cash it’s hard to resist.” – Brand Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

I definitely see more breweries–small, medium and large—being acquired in 2017. I don’t view these deals in terms of being bad or good for craft, I see them as being inevitable for an industry that has demonstrated so much growth over the past decade. And as long as brewers of all sizes, and organizational structures, continue to make better and better beer, there will always be a plethora of quality choices available to the thoughtful drinker. If your favorite brewer gets too big, or gets bought by some multinational, there are plenty of other high-quality brewers–of all sizes and from all over—ready to step in and seize the opportunity.” – Greg Engert, Blue Jacket

“I do think that good things will always happen, and when you think that the big thing is killing the little thing, it always turns out that another good little thing happens. That said, it does appear that the big guys that are acquiring the little guys truly are operating with a mix of ill intent and cluelessness… I used to say, are they going to badmouth us, are they going to buy us, are they going to become us, are they going to try to kill us? What are they going to do? But they’re doing everything at the same time… I just have to have faith in that experience of a person sitting in a room, in their own neighborhood, among their neighbors, having a pint of beer that’s really well made. It’s made right there and they can talk to the brewer. That’s not something you can buy and that’s not something you can fake. I have to believe that that’s what we’re doing and you can’t kill that.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

That’s a hard one to predict. As far as it being good or bad, I think it allows for more growth and many more batches of amazing craft beer. At the end of the day beer lovers just want more variety and exciting brews to tempt their palates.” – Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewying

Probably. I think it’s bad overall, mainly because we tend to lose the political support of breweries that are bought out. Large breweries and distributors tend to oppose economic freedoms for small brewers, so seeing more craft breweries fall from our ranks doesn’t help.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

Is craft beer oversaturated with breweries and will we see breweries closing this coming year?

“You can never have too much good beer. I hope we don’t see closings.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“I think there is room for breweries with a solid plan, great beer, and a good market strategy. However, there are breweries who lack in 1-3 of those traits and I don’t think they will make it.” – Brady Duncan, MadTree Brewing

“It is not oversaturated, there is plenty of room for other high-quality producing craft breweries, but we will also see breweries closing. As mentioned earlier, being hyper-local is not enough anymore, and as the consumers push the focus towards quality as well as local, that will inevitably impact some breweries. Local will get you trial from consumers, but not adoption, it takes quality for that, and I think consumers are willing to go away from hyper-local to even regionally-local if it means they get a better product.” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts Brewing

“At current, demand for raw materials seems to be outweighing supply, with contracts for said materials already closed out for a few years. It will become increasingly harder for newer breweries to obtain materials with more breweries opening. Add that to the rising number of breweries placed into the same amount of shelf space. It is only natural that there will be brewery closings. We have seen this every year, even with the crazy growth.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

I think it’s inevitable that some are going to close. We are already seeing that with the Cademon announcement recently. I do feel there are going to be more openings than closings. More than ever it’s going to be important to produce a quality product and not just brew because it’s the hot thing to do.” Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

“No question there are tons of breweries. There is still room to grow but we will have to keep the beer good and consistent. If there are consistency issues that could cause problems.”  – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

I’d say that it is increasingly hard for non-local brewers to make as big an impact as they once did in non-local markets, but there are still opportunities, especially for small, local producers who sell a majority of their beer on-site. The brewpub model shows few signs of slow-down, but production brewers may oversaturate in a bit. I don’t think a rash of closings is imminent, just yet, since opportunities for even slow growth are out there. We will see what happens when the over 2000 brewers in planning get open, and as some of the bigger, national brewers get bigger. I am interested to see how the regional brewers will in the face of stiff competition stemming from the nationals and the locals.” – Greg Engert, Blue Jacket

“I’ve been asking this of myself and of my friends for a long time and I do not know the answer. But there’s one way I look at it – in the old days, there would be a tavern every two or three blocks in a dense neighborhood. Most of these breweries that are opening at an amazing rate are little breweries. A lot of them don’t make any more beer than a good-sized neighborhood tavern would sell. So why shouldn’t your neighborhood tavern be a brewery? If you look at it that way, there really aren’t any limits. Instead of five taverns that you can walk to selling the same five beers, it’s five brewpubs you can walk to, each of which has five different beers.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“I do believe there’s a saturation going on. You will see consolidation or breweries closing. Those that are financed well or those who have a solid mission, story and product will survive but they will have to hustle.” – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

There are over 5,000 breweries in the USA and the growth of the craft beer market doesn’t look to be slowing down. Drinking good beer at your neighborhood brewery is becoming a very social thing to do, so I think there is still room for even more breweries to pop up with communal spaces like our Public House where people can play games, use the WiFi, and even bring their dog. There are more than enough beer drinkers to sustain the craft beer industry.” – Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

In some parts of the country, probably so. I don’t think this will necessarily translate into a rash of closures. I do think it will force breweries to become more adaptive, and I think we’ll see more and more breweries focused on specific styles and/or relatively narrow geographic areas, like even just a city block for instance.” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

“It’s certainly getting there. We’re still underserved in GA.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

“I don’t think we are there yet, I think if anything we will start to see more breweries selling beer closer to home. I see a lot of the breweries opening now barely distributing anything, most of their sales are in house.” – Chris Brown, Holy City Brewing

“I think we could be nearing a saturation point. I;m not sure if/when breweries will start closing, but as long as one focuses on releasing beers that are free from off-flavors, then your chances of sticking around longer than others are good!” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

If there was one beer released in 2016 at any brewery in the world that you didn’t get to have that you would have liked to try what was it?

“I would like to tour Europe sampling American-style IPA’s.” – Nick Nock, SweetWater Brewing Co.

“The one that instantly credited my account with 1 million dollars and also bace me HUGE pectoral muscles. No reason to cry over beer you haven’t had, savor the ones you do get to have. They may be on someone else’s list of “missed” beers.” – Brandon Stull, Terrapin Beer Co.

Terrapin Beer Co. Head Brewer Brandon Stull
Brandon Stull, Head Brewer at Terrapin Beer Co.
Courtesy Terrapin Beer Co.

Not necessarily a single beer, but I would have liked to attend Roundabout Brewery’s Smoketoberfest. Steve Sloan is IMO one of the best brewers in the country, and this is their annual celebration of smoked meat and beer. I would have loved to have been there to hoist a few that day.” Brant Dubovick, DryHop/Corridor Brewing

#smoketoberfest #roundaboutbrewery

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“Pliny the Younger.”  – Chris Haborak, Coast Empire Beer Co.

You could call this cheating since I did get to taste the following beers (in small tastes at The Festival, in Louisville, a few weeks back), but I would absolutely love to really drink and revisit the series of SPON beers Jester King debuted at that event. Each of the spontaneously-fermented beers they poured over that weekend were spectacular, and as redolent of traditional Belgian Lambic as anything I have ever had produced stateside. Hopefully, my friend Jeff Stuffings is reading this right now, and is filled with the Holiday spirit!” – Greg Engert, Bluejacket

“I did not get to try SPON – Méthode Gueuze from Jester King, and would have loved to taste it.” – Chris Herron, Creature Comforts

“Something that breaks my heart is a couple days ago, Naked City Brewery had their Betsy’s Brown Ale on cask at the bar and I just missed it. They did something with pecans or something, and I know it was magical and I missed it.” [Editor’s note: Naked City Brewery is next door to Flying Bike Coop. Kevin noted that Naked City has been “nothing but kind and helpful” since Flying Bike opened its doors. “We are thick as thieves.” – Kevin Forhan, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

“Sole Artisan Ales – Pineapple Smoosh DIPA conditioned on 1500lbs of pineapples, bourbon, vanilla and milk sugar.”  – David Keuhner, Honor Winery & Honor Brewing Co.

Angel City Brewery along with six other breweries across the US did a collaboration with Jameson Irish Whiskey called Cask Mates Drinking Buddies. We all traveled to Ireland to collaborate with Jameson and bring home Jameson Whiskey barrels to age our beers in. I would like to try the beers that the other breweries crafted. So if Deep Ellum in TX, Fat Heads in OH, Cycle Brewing in FL, Stoup in WA, Great Divide in CO and Captain Lawrence in NY are reading let’s plan a tasting!” – Layton Cutler, Angel City Brewing

I keep missing out when Live Oak Brewing Co. in Austin puts on a cask of unfiltered pale lager!” – Jeff Stuffings, Jester King Brewery

“Spon, from Jester King.” – Alex Wallash, The Rare Barrel

“Treehouse Orange Juuuuliussss, or however you write it.” – Brey Sloan, River Watch Brewery

 

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