Monday, 4 January 2010

Predictions and Hopes for 2010

Last year I put down a few predictions for the year. Here’s what I think for 2010...


Cask beer will grow. I also think cask beer drinkers will start younger (as the Cask Report says) and that there’s a huge market of drinkers in British universities – some unis do cask, but not many, which is a real shame. This is an untapped (literally) area with massive potential (some expendable income, a drinking culture, ‘educated’ audience... Ask around and I bet a good number of ale drinkers - those with degrees, anyway - started while studying).

Breweries working to please two different markets: the real ale pub drinker and the beer ‘enthusiast’ who wants something a little different. This will mean a core range of cask beers and then a few specials, bottled in small numbers. This will in turn - for small, very specialist brews - create certain beers as commodities, pushing price levels higher and bottle numbers lower (see: BrewDog’s Abstrakt range). A few breweries already do this well, more will follow.

I say: Ban bland, brown bitters! Sessionable 4% pale ales and ‘bitters’ will get better. Bitter as a style needs to evolve and shake free from the negative shackles. We had bumper hop harvests last year so hopefully this will reflect in the beers we drink – better ingredients going in and better beers coming out. Also, I hope more breweries are happy to chuck extra hops in, especially American hops which are incredibly drinkable and fruity. Session beers are the daily bread in Britain and are incredibly important, but they should be better and they can be. They will be.

Following on from the session beers, I think there will be more adventurous beers under 5-6%. Beer doesn’t need to be 9% to be packed with flavour. I’m more impressed with low ABV beers which pack a punch but remain very drinkable.

As much as I like dark beers, I think 2010 will be all about pale and hoppy. I don’t know why, I just feel that’s where things are going.

I think barrel-aging will be more limited than previous years as that trend seems to be waning. I wonder what will supersede it...

Mario at Brewed for Thought on his Hop Press post makes the prediction that appellation will become important in 2010 and I like this idea. Make beers specific to where they come from: local malt, barley, water and hops creating a unique beer from its unique location. Westerham Brewery do this and the beers are very good. The Slow Food movement will have some impact and drinkers will appreciate local drink.


It’s interesting to see Shepherd Neame’s pilot plant where they can brew small one-off batches of beer still under the same brand. I’d like other big breweries to do the same and be a bit more experimental – it’s a great way to hit existing drinkers with new flavours.

Barm/Robsterowski says it well here: A better understanding of serving cask beers and cellarmanship. Real ale relies on the pub to serve it in great condition (assuming the brewery sends it out in a good state, which they should – and which is something else which should be improved). I’ve had too many disappointing pints in the past thanks to poorly kept beer. It just reflects badly on the whole industry and puts potential converts off.

Tandleman has a few wishes which are very interesting, particularly involving the industry (the need for one voice) and CAMRA (the need for a ‘purpose review’). I think he nails these two points and I hope something happens on both fronts to help update what we have.

Food and beer as partners will gain more appreciation. It deserves it. We need to champion it.

I hope a supermarket grabs beer by the balls and overhauls its selection. Marks & Spencer have done a good job and Tesco have listed some good new beers this year, but I’d love to see a few more, different, interesting beers in the supermarket and definitely more local beers available.

More US beer gets shipped over to the UK (because I want to drink it).

Better UK beer gets shipped to the US (because the stuff that goes that way isn’t the best we have to offer).

More kegged UK ale. Handpulls are, like, so 1970s. Let’s see some keg action and try to narrow the keg vs cask gulf (this is a mindset thing as much as anything else – warm, flat ales are pulled by handpump, cold, fizzy lagers are kegged...).

BrewDog concentrate on exciting our imaginations with excellent beer and forget the stunts.

A US-style beer bar in London. Please. Like The Rake, with more beer and beer that’s brewed on location.

And perhaps most hopefully… I’d to see some adventurous UK sours or just some really good UK lagers.

To beer bloggers:

Write whatever the hell you like. Talk about the good beers you drink; the beers you like to drink. Be passionate. Be bold. But be honest. We do this as a hobby and because we like doing it. There are no rules. Challenge when it's relevant, but remember: what we write is in the public domain so be fair and blog what you would like others to read and think about what you have experienced. And have some fun!

That’ll do for now. Any ideas or thoughts on what’s ahead for us this year?


  1. "Write whatever the hell you like. Talk about the good beers you drink; the beers you like to drink. Be passionate. Be bold. But be honest."


    On the Shepherd Neame front, I wish their site has a bit more info and structure. The one off beers they have listed look great but there's nothing about where and how they'll be availble. Difficult to support them and make the effort to get out and taste the beers when you don't know how.

    Looking forward to a new year of pencil and spoon.

  2. I like a brown bitter myself, I’m more bored of pale thin yellow beers. Greenwich beer festival was over run with them this year.

    Can’t say the thought of more keg ales excites me either, and surely in the 70s they were busy ripping out handpumps as fast as they could?

  3. I'm not sure about 2010 being about pale and hoppy, I think the next trend will be black and hoppy.

  4. Chunk, a little more info would be nice. As far as I know they will be one-off festival brews and things like that.

    Interestingly on this point Stuart Howe at Sharp annouced that he'll be brewing 52 different beers alongside the core range of brews. That's a great project and he's long been an advocate of the cask range and special range.

    Ed, it all comes down to a decent beer. A well brewed brown bitter is fine. And CAMRA started in the 70s, that's good enough for me...! Allow me to be a little facetious in some of my points ;)

    Rabid, I think you are right (let's split it down the middle and say "hoppy beers") but I hope not so I called for the pale... It's easier to get dark and hoppy wrong, I find, especially in low ABV beers. I just think there's something disagreeable about big roasted malt flavour and American citrusy hops. There aren't many that I've enjoyed so far. I keep an open mind!!

  5. Yeah, I saw the 52 beer projects this morning, looks very interesting indeed. It's a bit of a shame then, that some of the Shep beers don't make it to bottle.

    Agree with you about roastiness and citrus American hops. I had a stab at a Black IPA brew over Christmas. It's come out a tad light on the EBCs but has basically no roasty flavour at all. I think a hint of roast can work with citrus hops, you just have to be careful not to overpower everything.

  6. I think I'm going a bit Tandleman Mark, I just like cask beer and keg leaves me cold!

  7. Chunk, maybe in the future Sheps will get more adventurous and aim for some stronger beers for the bottle, who knows. That'd be good if they did. And some roast is fine, it's when it gets bitter and roasty that I struggle. Stone's Sublimely Self Richeous is too much for me but Southern Tier's Iniquity is fantastic (it's sweetly chocolatey under the fruity , not piny, hops). 've heard good thins about Thornbridge's Raven but not tried it yet.

    Ed, there is a divide between those who like cask but see keg as bad and vice versa. I definitely think there's a place for keg beer but it'll be a struggle to get keg in for many reasons. The US is mainly keg and they do alright with it. I see potential in Brewdog approaching keg in a good way, but who knows. Meantime and Lovibonds are good examples so far of keg (Fuller's London Porter, too).

    As long as it isn't too cold or too fizzy then it's fine by me!

  8. "I hope a supermarket grabs beer by the balls and overhauls its selection...more local beers available". There are plenty of great independent retailers out there that offer a fine selection, including web based ones, why on earth would you want to put more money in Sir Leahy's pocket? And it's hardly a good deal for the local microbrewer either who has to sell his beer cheaply to the supermarket. We specialise in local ales by the bottle and most of the time, especially for more commercial brands, compete price-wise with the likes of Asda and Tesco. Range wise we currently stock around 80, and yes, the price that a small brewer sells his ales at is more than you can buy a mainstream brand for, but aren't you paying for the quality and not the quantity?

  9. Stuart, I understand you points. I know of micros who struggle to keep up with demands of the supermarkets and then sells it cheaply. I also understand that supermarkets can sell beer cheaper than independent places can buy it for, which is a shame all round. The thing is, I shop mostly in the supermarkets (I don't really shop in there for beer though...) and the majority of people shop in supermarkets too. If there is better beer available then hopefully it is more likely to be put in to the trolley?

  10. Mark, yes, we all use supermarkets for certain things, they have become a necessary evil. If your prediction/hope comes true about more stocks of ale and more of it going into the trolly, then we can at least hope to see people turning from cheap lager fizz to quality bottled ales and an even greater move towards cask, which is good news for the industry (and even the country)

  11. I think you are right Mark, cold and over-carbonated is the problem with keg rather than keg per se.

    Dark and hoppy is good for me, I've had one or too and they see to work, but then everyone's tastes are different. I find pale hoppy beers too watery.

  12. As a newbie to the Beer Blogging scene, I take on board your comments to beer bloggers.

  13. Dave - don't forget that most keg beers are also filtered and pasteurized.

  14. Ed - That's what buggers them.

    Commenting on what Mark said; cask beer will grow. It's a no brainer really, though how much legs it has is another question. I agree breweries should be bolder. Why any decent sized brewery doesn't have a pilot plant is beyond me.I'll be writing more on that in my own blog.

    2010 the year of pale and hoppy? I think what you mean is that the South will waken up to them. We've been drinking them in the North for years.

    Keg ale will remain a niche within a niche and won't grow much is my bet. And handpulls over a bright box or a chrome font? No contest.

    A US style bar in London would be good. The Rake is fine, but is less than the sum of its parts. When busy it is way too small and I feel overcharged for an uncomfortable experience. I am always surprised that London doesn't do better, but having discovered refrigeration at last, it is improving.

    Finally CAMRA. It isn't and never will be an umbrella organisation for beer, so if that's a hope, I'd say forget it.

  15. Tandleman, the pilot plant is a grea idea and definitely something others should embrace. It's sort of happening in the US where macro brands are producing 'craft style' beers from sub-brands. That'd be another interesting off-shoot.

    I really hope no one else does a chrome font with a handpull inside. That was a horrible idea. As for keg, I'd like to see more breweries willing to attempt and push it but fear it is unlikely. We'll have to see.

    I don't want CAMRA to be an umbrella organisation. We need a new organisation. A Brewers Association or something like that. But I do think, as you say, that CAMRA need to focus better. I think it needs to move away from the lobby groups and concentrate on promoting the good and not higlighting the 'bad'.

  16. Nice post, and I'm happy to say that I agree with you on a number of plants.

    Definitely more experimental beers from British breweries (though not at the expense of the more popular, safe ales that lots of people drink), more pubs treating their ale well too. It's really disappointing when you go to a pub who sell a great beer and when you taste it it's clear it's been neglected.

    I'd like to get more American beers across to the UK at reasonable prices. I understand why American beers have to cost a lot when they get here (shipping, refrigeration, so on...) but even as a beer enthusiast I find the price of a lot of US beers massively prohibitive. I'm not sure that there's any solution to that, mind...

  17. I hope many of these things happen. I WISH my university had cask ale, it used to about ten years but got rid of it. Hopefully this is something will change this year, and I think I may suggest it to my Real Ale & Cider Society.