Every year I write one of these posts. I never get anything right, but it’s worth a punt...
Keg beer will not rocket in general. A few breweries will expand into using kegs, and others will expand current keg ranges, and they will sell these to the destination beer bars around the UK. A 6.5-7.4% IPA on keg will become core to some brewery ranges. Only about 10-15 breweries will do this properly and do this well.
As some breweries make beers to satisfy the geek end of the market, and see success from doing it (whether cask, keg or bottle), so all breweries will need to look hyper-locally and nail their nearby market with whatever beers will sell best there, probably a sub-4% pale cask session beer. Given the massive competition of breweries in the UK now, these beers need to be really good for a brewery to survive.
Cask beer is very important to British beer and always will be. Kegs add to that and are not some kind of crazy, cask-killing beast. The cask vs. keg debate is tiresome now. The two need to co-exist because they do different things. With 900 cask breweries in the UK, why fear 10-15 breweries who want to use kegs to dispense some or all of their beers?
The Olympics are the big thing in 2012. I hope we don’t get a load of gold or bronze Olympic-themed ales released for the summer. I hate tacky ‘occasion’ beers – are any of them ever any good?
Because of the Olympics, plus Euro 2012, bottles will be important as more people want to drink at home. This summer will be the summer of home drinking. Breweries had better get filling those bottles.
This is an interesting one: big breweries taking a craft focus. Sharp’s are under MolsonCoors and I expect some good things from Sharp’s in 2012. As well as this, Brains and Thwaites are both opening smaller plants to brew beers outside of their core ranges. Shepherd Neame did this a few years ago but I rarely hear about it anymore, which is a shame. This approach from the regionals and nationals is good to see. I hope the beers are good.
Micro-beer festivals. The 400-cask beer festival is always fun but I love the idea of smaller-scale, better-quality festivals. The Snowdrop Inn showed how it’s possible. I also think themed beer festivals, or events based around certain beer styles, will work well, as was seen with IPA Day in 2011. Brewery showcases and tap takeovers are an extension of this – and they are events to get people to the pub.
Food and beer will make it big in 2012! I hope. It’s been a long time coming but we’re getting closer and closer to people really taking it seriously. If beer is going to be taken seriously in the mainstream then it’ll be alongside food to begin, in the same way that wine attached itself to the dinner table in the 1980s. To get beer to that point it will need a TV programme and major newspaper columns but there are people around who can do those things.
Now for the beers... We’ve had IPAs, we’ve had Black IPAs. Some breweries have veered towards Belgium or played with Belgian yeasts. We’ve had more IPAs, red IPAs, Belgian IPAs and double IPAs. But what beers will come in 2012?
I think straight-up 6.5-7.4% US IPAs will be big still. I’m certainly not done drinking them. I just hope they go into kegs and not casks (or at least go into both).
I think forward-thinking brewers will look backwards at old recipes and styles. Fuller’s do a great job with this already, The Kernel is doing it, Thornbridge and Otley have done some – it’s either taking old brewing records and bringing them back to life or it’s rejuvenating old beer styles like Burtons and old ales.
American hops are still hot but their supply is tight in 2012. This might see some more beers made with English hops. I think by the end of the year there’ll be a beer or two (probably IPAs) that are hopped with just English varieties that are getting us all talking. This might also connect with the previous point of rejuvenated recipes...
I’m personally going to try and drink more Belgian beer in 2012. I’ve let it slip out of my sight in the last two years but I want to drink more. As for British breweries playing with Belgian inspiration... maybe. I don’t think we’ll see a Saison explosion but I expect some brewers will experiment with styles like tripels and Belgian blondes.
Best bitters will get lighter and hoppier.
What do you think will happen in 2012? What beer styles will we see more of? What breweries do we expect to taste good things from?