A Peek into the 2016 Crystal Ball

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Happy New Year! Now that we’ve entered 2016 a big question looms overhead: What does this year hold for the Beverage World? Here’s a quick peek at 5 areas due for changes.

Beer Consolidation

With the pending approval of AB InBev’s hook up with SABMiller, as well as its craft brewer shopping spree (Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery and the UK’s Camden Town Brewery are set to join the portfolio in the company’s High End division, along with Goose Island, Blue Point and another recent addition, Four Peaks), what will that mean for bars and restaurants? For one thing, the option of a one-stop shop, although whether or not AB InBev will opt to market these disparate brewers out, regionally or nationally, remains to be seen. The downside for operators is a cookie-cutter brew list that reflects no independent thinking, something of which craft beer fans are wary.

Tap Fight

Influenced by the demand for more and different craft beers, the growth of draft wine and cocktails, the fight for tap handles is only going to increase as draft ciders and even draft hard sodas start to heat up. Cider’s growth is still unpredictable when it comes to draft, but in parts of the country where it is more popular, well-made and nitrogen-poured ciders are a big hit. Operators opening new locations will need to be aware of the future prospects for draft: efficiency, profitability and variety being just 3 good reasons.

Non-Alcohol Options

Fresh juices, juice blends, and smoothies (particularly those made with added nutritional supplements) get high marks both from health-conscious and Millennial diners, which is why operators who focus on the daylight daypart are developing new programs to satisfy those needs. The option for better adult non-alcohol beverages in the evening, however, doesn’t get the same attention, and it’s still difficult to find those hand-crafted and dry house sodas or other drinks that satisfy. Draft kombucha and draft cold coffee are two options; others need to be explored.

North American Whiskey Surges, Moonshine Fades

The brief romance with so-called moonshine (unaged whiskey in the original definition, but these days more likely flavored corn vodka bottled at high proof) seems to be ending, but virtually every other North American-made whiskey is still booming. The building boom in bourbon country continues, and the craft distillers seem to be selling most of what they release, good or bad. Now that many of the popular rye whiskeys have been revealed to be made in Canada, distillers there are increasingly showcasing what they do so well. Chances are whiskey from the New World will only grow in importance in 2016.

Sparkling and Rosé Wines All Year Long

While the luxury Champagne market rises and falls based much on the world economy, operators report that sparkling wines from Italy, Spain and elsewhere continue to be an important year-round component to their beverage mix. Part of that is due to cocktails like the Aperol Spritz and the growth of sparkling service during brunch, but it’s also true that Millennials’ casual approach to wine provides lots of opportunities for pop. Rosé is still more seasonal, but that season is stretching to include fall now. With the range of types available (from sweet to off-dry to dry), building a short list of rosés with multiple applications is quite easy. Those who try their hands at listing and promoting both styles of wine will be rewarded.

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