What Will Craft Brewing Look Like in 2015?

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For all of December, every magazine from here to eternity has been heavy on the reflective 2014 list pieces, and ours is no exception. We’ve gushed about our favorite new NYC breweries, ranked the best new beers to hit the shelf, featured a roundup of prominent industry players hashing out their picks for the year’s leading brews and even peeked into the local beer industry’s Christmas dinner bottle supply. Yet, while 2014 was an undoubtedly fruitful year for New York City craft beer, the time has come to stop living in the past and start considering our future.

To get a sense of what exciting beer and brewing trends might unfold this year, I surveyed a group of seasoned experts (read: local beer folks) on their predictions for 2015. This fine roster of drinkers, purveyors, writers and producers might not always agree as to what the coming year holds for our city’s beer-loving community, but they’re each looking optimistically ahead, pint glasses firmly half-full.

Jimmy’s No. 43 & Beer Session Radio’s Jimmy Carbone
I think there will be many more micro- and nano-breweries, like the ones we had on Tuesday’s (1/13) Beer Sessions Radio show: Folksbier, which is basically a popup brewpub in the basement of Frankie’s; Braven Brewery, former homebrewers who are doing contract brewing upstate; and Threes Brewing, a microbrewery that recently launched in Gowanus.

The exterior of Jimmy's No. 43

Contract brewing will continue to grow in the city as great homebrewers go commercial (here’s a scoop: Cuzett, the new Gypsy brewery by Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett). In addition, I see growth among the current batch of micro-brewers (e.g. Bridge & Tunnel, Sloop, Blind Bat) who will move out of garage-type setups to larger barrel systems and expand capacity accordingly.

These trends are similar to the early days of coffee bars, where one would open in every neighborhood. There’s plenty of room for brewpubs in every community and I think we’re going to see them popping up in a lot of restaurants across NYC in 2015.

Transmitter Brewing’s Anthony Accardi
I think we’ll see more of the continuing trend of adding a sense of terroir to beer this year–to add a sense of place through the use of local ingredients and microflora to what has long been a relatively industrial process.

The second thing is that more bars and restaurants are paying closer attention to the beers on their menus — places that may have had a stronger emphasis on wine will be turning some of that attention to beer. As part of that, we’ll see smaller neighborhood joints, be it a neighborhood bistro or ethnic place, surprise us with some new, high-quality choices that we would not expect or have traditionally seen. You’ll start to find more than Singha at your local Thai place.

The Owl Farm, Mission Dolores, BGH & Glorietta Baldy’s Ben Wiley
In terms of styles, we’ll see the continual growth of sours and previously considered “odd” beers. Moreover, I think that big-ABV beers are going to come back soon. After a good couple-few years of session everything coming up quick, I think we’ll see a general resurgence of the high octane, previously considered “cool” beers.

Greg Doroski of Threes Brewery

I think we’ll see another two-to-three local beers — Threes and Braven have already started very recently and I think there’ll likely be another two or so local places. There’s still tons of empty warehouses dotted around Brooklyn that one could brew out of, and while I don’t think we’ll see continuing linear growth, I wouldn’t say it’ll be stagnant, either.

I think lots of folks want to say that we’ll see more brewpubs, but the reality is that it’s not easy. They’re expensive to open. They’re totally awesome, don’t get me wrong! I totally love them. I just think it’s easy to say that there’s going to be tons of them. Harder to pull off than many think.

Bitter & Esters’ John LaPolla
In 2015, we will see even more people homebrewing and brewing [exclusive] beer for their weddings and events. I also hope to see an increase in beer education for drinkers and servers. IPA’s will still be the rage, but I think there will be a return to well crafted classic styles from local breweries. And we will definitely see more craft beer in cans.

Alphabet City Beer Co’s Zach Mack
2014 seemed like the year everyone decided to do a session IPA and/or a Gose. I think 2015 will see even more people focusing in on at least one style in the repertoire that’s lower gravity. I’d love to see the uptick in Saisons continue, with more farmhouse table beers hitting the shelves and draft lines. The IPA will still reign supreme, but people will start favoring the citrusy, Southern Hemisphere style hops in their recipes. And people will love the change.

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The sky’s the limit for the brewers in our city. They’ve not only been embraced by locals and visitors alike, but they’re improving their recipes, becoming more innovative, and helping to establish New York City as an actual destination for beer. Not a week has gone by where tourists sitting at my bar aren’t asking me about which local tap rooms they should be visiting. I think New York is establishing itself as more of a microbrewery city and less of a brewpub city, but I would love to see a small brewpub open with killer food and great beers to go with it.

I hope 2015 will see more brewers releasing proper Pale Ales, more inventive Saisons, less Imperial IPAs, and God willing, some new and impressive Porters and Stouts. I also hope the idea of the fat, bearded white dude as the go-to image of a brewer starts to dissipate, and that the people brewing beer realize that women enjoy their product just as much as men.

Sixpoint’s Heather McReynolds
As the NYC beer scene continues to evolve, I think we’ll see the trend go back towards simple, well executed styles. That’s not to say everyone will just be drinking Pale Ales, but I think we’ll see more and more classics. We’ve already seen Saisons make a comeback, and Goses to some extent, but I think we’ll others like Altbiers and Commons becoming more popular.

And, to close us out, here’s a list of predictions from Beer Sessions Radio’s Justin Kennedy, who took my assignment very, very seriously:

I Heart Big Cans: Other Half Green Diamonds, Carton Regular Coffee, Gun Hill Void of Light (with a black metal motif, natch), and Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine will all be available in tall boys, within the five boroughs, sometime in 2015.

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Rival Twins: Mikkeller Bar BK will open at the corner of Lorimer and Nassau. Mikkel will refuse to invite twin brother Jeppe to the friends & family party. The Times will run a follow-up Think Piece reinvigorating the rivalry.

Contract Merch Brands: More and more new “NYC breweries” will start online by selling t-shirts, hoodies, and onesies years before brewing even a single drop of beer. A few of them will never get around to brewing beer at all.

Secondary Outposts: Other Half will open a sour, blending, and barrel-aging facility…on a sprawling 50-acre experimental hop farm…in downtown Asheville.

The Ol’ Switcharoo: Twelve Percent and Remarkable Liquids will land massive distribution deals that will flood bodegas with the beers from the Alchemist, Wicked Weed, Toppling Goliath, Trillium, and Side Project. These obscurities will become “shelf turds” and quickly fall out of favor with the beer cognoscenti. Sam Adams Boston Lager, a now neglected and super-obscure brand, will become the new Heady Topper. Jim Koch will be redeemed!

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