Peace out, 2015! What a year for craft beer, especially here in Bellingham. From new styles to new breweries to new sell outs, the craft world keeps getting bigger and bigger. Just take a look at the production statistics posted by the Brewer’s Association.
Here are the top trends in craft beer for 2015:
Big Brewery Buyouts
Yes, big name breweries have been buying out craft breweries before 2015, but this year it seemed like an announcement of a buyout was happening at least once a month. A pattern has emerged in craft beer where selling to a larger company is not becoming a matter of “if”, but “when.” It’s a time where even a brewery that founded Loser Pale Ale with the slogan “corporate beer still sucks” can sell out to big beer company Anheuser-Busch (I know Elysian sold out in 2014, but I’m still not over it so sue me). Buyouts are emerging as a necessary step towards expansion and distribution.
By far one of the biggest buyouts this year was Ballast Point selling for a whopping $1 billion to Constellation Brands. A billion. Freaking. Dollars. That purchase alone is most likely going to have a major impact on craft brewery buyouts in 2016. Big name beer companies aren’t fooling around here.
Not every brewery is settling so easily. In what was one of my favorite tweets of 2015, Evil Twin Brewing put it quite eloquently:
Busy morning… pic.twitter.com/gEwhjZmJP2
— Evil Twin Brewing (@EvilTwinBrewing) November 18, 2015
Again, this has been around well before 2015, but this was the year where Bellingham went full fledged Donkey Kong and really started throwing all these barrels at us. Wander Brewing started throwing batches in barrels from the beginning, however now that they’ve been in operation for over a year, their Barrel Project releases are becoming more abundant and regular.
On top of that, Boundary Bay recently came out with their kick ass bootlegger series, Aslan is starting their own barrel aging project, and North Fork is having all sorts of fun aging and souring out in the woods.
This was a great year for barrel aging; Wander even took gold with their Wild Warehouse at the GABF for best barrel aged beer. I personally can’t wait to taste what’s in everyone’s barrels in 2016.
Back at the Great American Beer Festival, sour beers surprised many with their overwhelming popularity. This style of beer has been steadily growing for years, but 2015 is when the category really solidified its dominance in the craft beer world. Sours were one of the top craft beer trends at GABF according to Fortune, and we’ve been lucky enough to live in a sour hub here in Bellingham this year.