Educated Predictions: The Craft Beer Styles to Watch in 2017

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If you’re expecting 2017 to finally be the year that IPA is dethroned, think again. Should Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson’s 2017 craft beer style predictions prove correct, IPA will continue its reign as the king of craft.

Early on in 2016, some predicted that sours would give IPA a run for its money. But, as Watson recently noted, “IPA’s importance for the craft industry only increased in 2016.” This may be due in large part to the diversity inherent to the style. Watson has noted that IPAs can be white, black or red, come from a large range of regions, and run can be sessionable, one and done, and every level of ABV in between.

It’s possible that murmurs last year concerning the downfall of independent brewers also contributed to rumors of IPA becoming the victim of a coup. However, as Watson has pointed out, “Even in the face of numerous acquisitions, small and independent brewers still accounted for 80% of the new growth in [2016].”

Taking into account the data from research firm IRI Worldwide that Watson analyzed, it’s not difficult to interpret what the economist has predicted: IPA will more than likely continue to dominate but other opportunities do exist for independent brewers.

This is, perhaps, the most important takeaway from Watson’s 2017 style predictions. IPA is certainly important to independent brewers, but they should also focus on golden and blonde ales, pilsners, and “other” pale lagers. Watson points to the growth in 2016 of golden and blonde ales, the 30% growth in IRI scans among pilsners last year, and the median growth for existing brands within the other pale lagers category to support his predictions.

Predictions are difficult to make, and prognostication should be taken with a grain (or two, or a shaker) of salt. But operators can be fairly confident that they can succeed with IPAs and the other styles that Watson has predicted will be hot for 2017.

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