Dan from The Full Pint recaps the year in craft beer in a multi part series. Make yourself at home this holiday season here at TFP as we recap the last 12 months and get ready for another 12.
Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits – It was a very big year for San Diego craft beer pioneers Ballast Point. They ramped up production, sending cans of Sculpin to states far away from California. They then please hop heads all over with the previously draft only Grapefruit Sculpin, canning that and sending it everywhere. Even with an MSRP of $13.00 a six pack, both Sculpins took over the world. Then these guys announced they filed for a public offering to fanfare. Before the dust could settle from that news, they announced they were purchased by Constellation Brands, the parent company to Corona and Modello.
Big Box Retail Pricing – Costco and Sams club ramped up their craft beer inventory this year. Why wouldn’t they, people like nice things. Of note, at least in the Southern California area, Stone Brewing Co. Firestone Walker Brewing and Lagunitas all competed to the tune of $1.00 a beer ($24 24 packs). While some say this is bad for craft beer, this is fantastic for value minded craft beer drinkers.
Cloudy IPA – Years ago when The Alchemist began producing small batches of Heady Topper IPA, they put a preemptive warning on the can stating the beer was ugly and to not pour into the glass. Without being a brewer, I can tell you that it takes a bit of time and equipment to make a clear IPA. Fast forward to this year, and you will see plenty of highly coveted and sought after small batch IPAs that almost look like smoothies. Samuel Adams has taken notice and will release a cloudy IPA in their Rebel family.
Dogfish Head Brewery – Craft Beer pioneers Dogfish Head Brewery are feeling the heat in the highly competitive craft beer market of 2015. So much so that they hired a Chief Executive Officer and went shopping for funding. There are thousands of more breweries they are competing with than when they peaked in popularity around 2010 and in order to get a competitive edge, they need money to do so. They announced a reshuffled lineup with new beers added in order to spark some new interest.
El Segundo Brewing Co. – It wasn’t long ago that Los Angeles was laughed at for being so populated and at the same time, a craft beer wasteland. As someone sitting here, I am proud to hang my hat on El Segundo Brewing’s hoppy beer lineup, which blends in nicely with some of the best hoppy beers made in San Diego. By summertime, El Segundo forged a friendship with WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin, and released a co-branded West Coast Style IPA this past November. This has shot El Segundo’s stock into the stratosphere and puts them in a good place for 2016.
Kickstarter/GoFundMes – A few years ago, online crowd funding became a very popular way for a startup brewery with no means to get an injection of money. While it has become a bit passe for potential startup breweries to ask for money, 2015 saw plenty of beer related products and gadgets using crowdfunding platforms to get their products to market.
Mexican Chocolate – A very popular flavor profile took hold this year, I’ll refer to it as the Mexican Chocolate flavor profile. Many brewers made stouts and porters with chocolate, cinnamon and chilies. Stone Brewing Co. rode that wave and brought back the very popular Xocoveza Mocha Stout which sold out so quick they had to brew a second national distributed batch.
Session Ales – 2014 was the peak of Session IPA mania, 2015 was the beating of the session dead horse. Many many more breweries took a stab at brewing a session IPA that would stand tall next to Firestone Easy Jack, with varied results. The bigger issue that niche style encountered was price point and shelf life. Many of these beers would sit next to their stronger counterparts, with roughly the same price, and would die a sad slow death on the shelf. When talking to many pub owners in my area, I found that the younger drinking crowd will pick a full strength or double IPA 10 out of 10 times over a session IPA. I am personally a fan of Session IPA, I think we will see less in 2016.
Stone Brewing Co. – Stone has had many big years, 2015 sparked much change. Stone crunched 2014 sales numbers and subsequently retired Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, Stone Pale Ale, Stone Ruination Ale and Levitation Ale. All the beers that put them on the map years ago took a back seat to Delicious IPA, Enjoy By IPA and RuinTEN IPA. CEO and Co-Founder Greg Koch announced he would be stepping aside in the CEO role and assured Stone fans he will still have his hands completely on the company. They broke ground for their second US based brewery in Richmond, VA and began brewing beer in their Berlin Germany facility.
Unproven Beer of the Month Clubs – We have noticed many new startup breweries following The Bruery’s lead in having a membership beer club, selling unproven barrel aged beers. Seemingly newer craft beer fans are willing to drop the cash and take the risk of quality beer from new breweries selling untasted beers. I believe more young breweries will follow suit as this is a risky but rewarding way of injecting cash flow.