Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2013 Predictions

I love Mike's predictions over at his A Year of Beer blog. I always love reading them and it's been fun to see some of them come true. Mike is a pretty good picker and has had a good percentage of his predictions come true.

I doubt I'll be as accurate as he has been but I figured it would be fun to try my hand and make some predictions. I am publishing them now because I don't want to be influenced by his list. Look for it to pop up over on his blog and day now.

1 - Breweries within Breweries.
Instead of opening new breweries or fiddling with their mix of core brands, brewers will let their employees flex their creative muscles under a house label. I don't know what to call this precisely, so I will just call it a brewery within a brewery for lack of a better term.

There are a couple pressures that make me think this will be a trend. One is retention. You don't want to lose a key employee because they get bored brewing the same beers and don't get to experiment as much as they'd like to. If your brewery relies on a stable of 2-4 core brands and doesn't do much else then this might be an elegant solution for retaining an ambitious young brewer who might have different priorities.

A second reason is the tension between brand equity and chasing opportunities. If you've invested millions of dollars and many years creating a brand you don't want to mess with the public's perception of your company. Any change will be incremental and gradual. Whatever your opinion of Creemore's Mad and Noisy house label, it is an astute business move. Creemore's brand remains an arm's length from their releases under Mad and Noisy ensuring there is no brand confusion. They also get to chase growth opportunities in the craft space where sales are increasing instead of stagnating or declining.

2  - Celebrity Collaborations
Unlike the wine world, I don't see any celebrities snapping up brewing equipment and starting a brewery any time soon. What we will see instead is celebrity and promotional collaborations. The best example in Canada this year is Flying Monkey's BNL beer, but this was also a trend in other parts of the world. Delaware brewer Dogfish Head has already done at least three (Positive Contact, Bitch's Brew, Faithfull) and there is a beer in Argentina produced by Grammy winning musician Gustavo Santolalla. They make two barrel-aged Belgian style beers called Grosa and ReGrosa -- both delicious.

If the Bare Naked Ladies did it, look for someone to try and seal a similar deal with the Tragically Hip. Or maybe we will see a Stephen Page collaboration with coca leaves? Zing!

3 - Filling in the cracks
Toronto is the center of gravity for this industry. Nearly every brewer's growth leads down a road towards Toronto.  My prediction is that the cracks will fill in. Areas further and further away from Toronto will put on more beer events and festivals. We will see more local breweries open in small and out of the way spots. This year saw construction of a brewery begin at the Carolinian Hop Yard and the opening of Bayside Brewing in Erieau, a small town with one road and a population of about 300 people.

Toronto will remain the mecca but looks for lots of growth on the extremities: anywhere south of Kitchener Waterloo is ripe for growth and there are plenty of thirsty drinkers available to market to.

4 -  Spiced Beer
We saw a ton of this at Cask Days with brewers venturing into realms of spice previously not treaded (eg. Indian). This won't likely be a trend in LCBO releases (unless Spearhead's Moroccan Brown ale gets picked up) but we will see more experiments with spices at festivals. A note to festival organizers: look for an indian food vendor.

5 - Event Deals
One piece of news that gave me great joy this year was the coup that Muskoka and Amsterdam pulled on Molson's in sponsoring the Honda Indy race. Races have a strong association with crap beer. Not only was this a great mov eon their part, I think it proves that the masses are sometimes smarter than given credit for.

Just because a lot of people are gathered does't mean we need to go for the lowest common denominator with food and drink sponsors. As an outsider looking in, the deal seemed successful to me and I'd expect it to continue. My prediction is that other large events will look to craft brewers to inject vibrancy and selection into their event. You've got to believe that other brewers took note of the Amsterdam/Muskoka deal and are already courting event organizers. Steamwhistle comes to mind as someone who has the money and brand that event organizers will jump on. If anyone else will do a deal think this in 2013 it will be them.

6 - LCBO/Beer Store

Any prediction about shakeups at the LCBO or liquor laws rests partly on a prediction about who will win the next Ontario election. I predict no major change to our liquor laws in 2013. At most I predict a a government study of some kind that will offer fodder for debate.

If any change happens it won't be until beyond 2013. It will be a relatively minor change too. The LCBO will not be sold. The Beer Store will remain intact. Brewers will win the right to run stores similar to Wine Rack. Corner stores will not be allowed to sell beer. The most major change will be in the tone of the debate. The LCBO will have to more explicitly justify it's existence and argue for the status quo as official debate intensifies.

One thing that won't stop is the unofficial debate. In bars and newspapers across Ontario the cries for change will grow in frequency and intensity.

7 - Cicerones
Beer education programmes will continue their success. I predict at one more Canadian Master Cicerone by the end of 2013. Congrats to Mirella Amato for being the first!

1 - We will see at least 1 more brewery within a brewery open in Ontario 2013
2 - We will see at least 2 celebrity beer collaborations in Ontario 2013.
3 - We will see at least 3 small breweries open in small towns in 2013. We will see at least 3 new beer festivals spring up in towns that have never had an event like this before,
4 - Moroccan Brown Ale gets picked up by LCBO. We will see innumerable crazy spiced beers at festivals.
5 - Steamwhistle will sponsor a major sporting event or concert, stealing sponsorship from Molson or Labatt.
6 - No major change to Ontario Liquor Law in 2013. Lots of noise, bluster and debate but not where it matters (the Ontario legislature).
7 - Roger Mittag has a banner year. A new Canadian Master Cicerone is named in 2013.