I generally try to get around to writing the column a little earlier than Thursday when it’s going to run Friday, but sometimes such is life.
The decade’s not exactly off to a banner start, is it? Makes it hard to focus on something as unimportant as beer. I’m not about to tell you that you should, but if you have a couple minutes, I’ve got a few hundred words, none of which are related to any impending historic crises.
What I’d been rolling around in my head this week was what I’m looking forward to in beer; not only over the new year but the new decade. A bit of “counterprogramming” if you will. There’s a ton of negativity and skepticism out there among industry professionals, a lot of which is justified, but I haven’t seen much of what people in beer were feeling good about.
A lot of the delay in writing this came from having a hard time setting aside my own cynicism. “Craft” beer is an easy target. The term itself is silly. The culture has become FOMO-driven to the point where breweries are putting out flawed product without knowing or caring because they know it’ll sell and get a 4+ star average on Untappd regardless. Breweries are popping up like someone fed them after midnight — over 11,000 in the U.S. at the moment. Entire “styles” of beer can appear and fade out within months, sparked by one brewery’s success spawning a gut of imitators.
So, I ask myself, what do I feel good about? What am I looking forward to? Well…
I’m looking forward to something continuing to build that I’ve seen over the past year: a reemergence of interest in Lagers and classic Ale styles, from breweries foreign and domestic. One of my best-selling beers of 2019 was Tucher’s Helles Hefeweizen, thanks in part to new packaging in .5L canned 4-packs, but also because for months prior, after I’d returned to Arrowine, I’d had customers asking repeatedly for a good, go-to version of the style.
I’ve been heartened by the love I’ve seen for British beers: not only those from the UK, like Coniston Bluebird Bitter, Robinson’s Trooper, and the Ridgeway holiday beers, but for American takes like the ESBs from Green Man and, more recently, Denizens.
I’m looking forward to a return of the “go-to” beer to prominence. The beer you snag a sixer of and can split with a couple friends, whether they’re beer geeks or not. They’re not going to eliminate and replace the rarities and one-offs — that stuff’s fun too. But the trend-chasing is not sustainable, and naturally begets a counterpoint to temper it. They don’t need to be “classic” beers to do this — Solace’s Partly Cloudy is one that comes to mind for me — just well made, and not taxing on the palate.
Mostly, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens here at Arrowine as we head into the new decade. I’m looking forward to seeing which beers and breweries finds homes on our new draft station. And I’m looking forward to continuing to help our clients find their new go-tos, special treats, or seasonal favorites.
Hopefully we can all meet back here in ten years and check our notes. Until next time.