Beer News Lists opinion

2021 Craft Beer Predictions

Peering into the crystal ball for what 2021 might bring

So 2020 that was a thing, let’s forget about it and move on to 2021. As with every year, we risk it all and put out a list of annual predictions that on average do fairly well coming true (except for 2020, but again let’s move on).

This year is still wildly unpredictable with craft beer, especially when it comes to festivals and events, so while it’s going to be quite hard to pinpoint how the industry is going to behave, there are some trends we’re fairly confident in making a call on; unfortunately not all of them are positive.

Closures

This is the second year in a row we’ve added closures to the predictions list, with our statement that 2020 would not be kind to breweries (and that was pre-pandemic). After the year we’ve had, the craft beer industry has been hit hard and it’s entirely unlikely that 2021 is going to solve all the industries woes. Which means that good, hard working breweries are going to be forced to shutter, so please support your local brewers as much as possible.

Delivery is here to stay

One of the small bright spots of 2020 was the forced normalization of craft beer home delivery. While many brewers struck out on their own and launched their e-commerce stores and delivery systems, others took a collective approach (see BeerVan) and banded together to offer an “all-in-one” service. Now that all the work has been put in, expect these systems to remain for the long term; it’s an additional source of revenue and while delivery schedules may be reduced to say once a week, it’s still better than it was before.

Beer with a purpose

2020 also saw craft brewers take a far more active stance on social and political issues than ever before. Whether it was the “Black is Beautiful” movement or “All in this Together”, breweries across the globe participated in brewing challenges that provided much needed financial support to worthy causes. Expect this trend to continue as breweries define their voices, look to support local and regional causes, and simply start using their powerful platform in more positive ways.

Brewers turn to Seltzer

Powell Street Brewing is already ahead of the game with SLTZR

Unfortunately, year over year, the hard seltzer market keeps eating away at craft brewing, and there is simply no denying the monumental growth. So rather than fight it, expect more breweries to start getting into the seltzer game, offering their own unique takes on the style and serving it up right alongside their craft beer options. This makes even more sense for micro-breweries that don’t have the space or time to be brewing lagers; a seltzer is the low risk, high reward alternative.

Festivals will look different (if they’re even back)

Do not expect to hop right back into eager crowds of thousands all packed together to get the hottest beer on the festival grounds. Those days are a long ways off, if they even return. Rather, 2021 is going to be “festival light”, with many festivals still relying on some sort of virtual event and others opting for much smaller, socially-distant arrangements. Hopefully this past year has given festival organizers enough time and experience to plan for something creative and memorable; but if that isn’t the case, then we’d rather have nothing then an attempt to a risky return to form.

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