In November, the U.S. reached more than 3,200 breweries and there are currently more than 2,000 breweries in the planning stages, according to the Brewers Association. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer. Through June of 2014, craft brewers enjoyed 18 percent growth by volume.
So, what were some of the largest and inspiring stories and trends of 2014?
Bringing American craft beer culture to the Old World.
History was made in July, 2014, when Green Flash became the first U.S. craft brewery to begin making and selling fresh beer in the European market. The San Diego brewery started releasing its signature West Coast IPA, brewed and bottled at traditional Abbey brewery, St. Feuillien, in Belgium.
Around the same time, Stone Brewing Company announced their request for proposal to open a Stone facility in the old world. America’s 10th largest craft brewer announced their deal to build and operate a brewery and beer garden in Berlin, Germany. This is a massive step for American (and Southern California) craft beer, as Germany is home to brewers Frederick Miller and Adolphus Busch. The brewery is expected to open late 2015. As of mid-December 2014, their Indiegogo campaign has surpassed its $1,000,000 goal by $1,531,898.
These two breweries represent in-your-face, west coast style IPAs. This speaks volumes about the craft beer drinker’s voice and the recent global domination of American craft beer.
This brings me to the next obvious trend, the continued popularity of India Pale Ales (IPAs).
India Pale Ales (IPAs) continue to grow and remain the most favored style.
These hop-laden beers have come full circle. IPAs are up 47 percent by volume and 49 percent by dollar sales, according to the Homebrewers Association. The style was also the number one entered category at the Great American Beer Festival last October.
Because of the massive popularity of the style, a new, more sessionable version of the IPA is also favored among many. At under 5 percent ABV, session beers are easier to sip by the six-pack. Try Stone Go To IPA, Firestone Walker Easy Jack, Ballast Point Brewing Even Keel or one of the newer Los Angeles beers on the block, Three Weavers Stateside, a 4.5% ABV Session IPA.
Canning continues to grow as another way to get beer in the hands of craft beer drinkers, in more places.
Tin is in. Cans are not only better for the environment, but they are cheaper to produce. Cans also require less energy to cool down. Less packaging means packing more beer in less space, which reduces a brewery’s carbon footprint.
According to CraftCans.com, there are now 453 breweries with over 1,600 craft brewed canned beers now available across the United States.
As a matter of fact, the airlines are getting in on the craft canned trend. As of early December, Delta Air Lines began stocking its carts with a selection of regional craft beers from breweries like Ballast Point, Lagunitas Brewing and Stone Brewing.
La Quinta Brewing started canning in February of 2014 with The Can Van. Within the last two months, La Quinta has been canning on their new “Wild Goose” canning line with their new painted cans that are now making their way into stores.
The rise of American Wild Ales.
Sours are made by intentionally introducing bacteria and/or wild yeast strains into the beer. Think bright, tart and funky and mysterious. Building off classic Belgian and German styles, U.S. breweries are harnessing wild yeast, creating beers with novel dimensions of aroma and flavor.
Coachella Valley Brewing started a sour program when they first opened their brewery, over a year ago.
Their sours will be offered in very small bottle allotments for Fault Line Society members and in the tasting room in 2015 starting with Framboys, a boysenberry raspberry framboise. Keep an eye out for Flame Rouges, an American wild brewed with red flame raisins. Both are aged in Port & Cabernet wine barrels.
CVB will also be releasing Epineux Poire, an American wild brewed with locally foraged prickly pear cactus fruit. Persnickety, CVB’s persimmon sour, will also make an appearance next year. If the beers don’t sell out to the FLS members, the remainder will go to pubic sale.
Coachella Valley Brewing’s Chris Anderson said, “I think in 2015 you will see more and more of beer style Fusion, think along the lines of a Belgian IPA. I think farmhouse ales, wild ales and Brett beers will all continue to be hot.”
The Farm to Table movement.
The convergence of the slow food movement and craft beer revolution has led to fantastic events and exhibits like the Great American Beer Festival’s Farm to Table Pavilion. The Pavilion provided 28 pairings designed and prepared by 14 small and independent breweries and chefs from around the country. Each pairing station was accompanied by at least one chef and one brewer.
Funkwerks’ Oud Bruin paired with pan-roasted duck breast, Belgian waffle & maple puree, mission fig verjus with smoked duck prosciutto by chef Alex Seidel of Fruition & Mercantile Dining and Provisions.
Coachella Valley Brewing was specially selected to pour and was also selected to present a special ‘Farm to Glass’ concept with a tasting for 200 people.
When asked about this movement and how people reacted to their beers, Anderson said, “I found that our beers were very unique and innovative as compared to other breweries and it inspired me to see more breweries jumping into the concept of farm to glass.”
Farmhouse ales have also seen a huge spike. With desirable applications of new-wave hop varietals like Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado and Hallertau Blanc, more people are asking for those less bitter beers and raising their glass to juicier brews.
Breweries are embracing agriculture and sourcing even more local fruits, vegetables, grains and local farms are continuing to help craft brewers meet this growing demand. More people are recognizing the compatibility of craft beer and contemporary cuisine. There are more fine dining options which are dedicated to food and craft beer pairing.
If in the L.A. area, stop by Hook & Plow. And don’t miss Workshop, in Palm Springs, who offer farm fresh heirloom, wild arugula, watermelon, champagne grapes and lemon cucumber in season and offer a nice selection of Southern California craft beer.
Nano breweries continue to open.
Here, size really doesn’t matter. Often started with a single batch of homebrewed beer, these smaller operations typically produce one batch at a time. They represent craft in the truest sense. Also referred to as pico breweries, it’s not yet completely defined by the Brewers Association. But it’s been said that nanobrewers make beer on a three barrel system or smaller. There are more than 300 breweries operating in the United States as of summer 2014 that would qualify as nano breweries.
San Diego’s Hess Brewing opened in 2010 and produced about 1.6 barrels of beer per batch. Mike Hess Brewing has since grown to include two locations, the original “nano” in the Miramar area and the production brewery in North Park, San Diego.
Locally, we’ve seen big successes for all of the Coachella Valley breweries.
In Rancho Mirage, Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse celebrated a massive win this year, when they took home a medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The beloved BBQ restaurant & brewhouse nabbed their first ever GABF medal in the “Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale” category for their Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale. The brewhouse is also celebrating a 110% increase in off-site sales from 2013 to 2014.
Tom Del Sarto is Coachella Valley Brewing’s Director of Sales and spearheaded the distribution deals with Young’s Market to sell their beers throughout California and most recently, in the state of Arizona. Del Sarto also indicated how the Thousand Palms taproom has allowed both locals and visitors to discover Anderson’s innovative beers.
With Coachella Valley locals trying more craft beers, Del Sarto correlated this with the bigger trend of the fall of Budweiser’s annual barrel sales from 30 million barrels in 2003 to 16 million barrels in 2014. The craft industry has seen an increase in sales to 16.1 barrels this year from just 5 million in 2003, placing craft industry sales above the Budweiser brand.
And with the massive rise in local breweries, we’re seeing more craft beer appearing in retail chains like Yard House and Pavilions. These chains have been progressively giving more room for regional beer.
“National chains are giving more autonomy to regional stores as customers are seeking local brands, adding to the major breweries' decline in volume," said Del Sarto.
"During this last year we cannot be happy enough with the whole team at CV Brewing. This company would be nothing without the team: Jamie, Chris, Chance, Ryan, Tasha, Laramie, Amanda, Troy, Devon, Robert, Dana, Tom, Jenn and Gary,” said CEO, David Humphrey.
La Quinta Brewing has also had a big year. Owner, Scott Stokes has been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance and support of craft beer in the desert in 2014.
“Just the attendance and success of this year’s Props and Hops Festival compared to 2 years ago illustrates the passion that desert residents have for craft beer.”
He went on to say, “We’re proud to say that after only a year, La Quinta [Brewing Co.] is the second most widely distributed craft beer in terms of bars & restaurants within the Coachella Valley, just behind New Belgium (Fat Tire).”
The quality and variety of beer is at a historic high and continues to thrive and evolve with innovative styles and trends.
Bring on the next round, 2015.
Stone pictures: photos by Stone Brewing's blog, Brandon Hernández
Firestone Easy Jack photo: beersinparadise.com
Mike Hess photo: beerthroughpictures.blogspot.com
Farm to Table Funkwerks photo: Odell Brewing