The number of craft breweries in the United States reportedly surpassed 6,000 in 2017. First-wave craft labels like Brooklyn Brewery and Samuel Adams, founded in 1987 and 1984, respectively, are now among the old guard.
With 2017 tilting toward our collective rearview mirror, we’re reflecting on the previous year. It’s been an extremely exciting time for the beer, wine, and spirits world, from a seemingly endless stream of craft beer acquisitions to the meteoric climbs of natural wine and amaro. We can’t wait to see what keeps glasses filled and hearts alight in the year to come.
Here are eight predictions for where we’ll go, what we’ll drink, and what we’ll leave by the roadside in 2018.
Natural Wine Reaches its Tipping Point
The fervor surrounding natural wine, the wildly popular, loosely defined category of wines produced biodynamically or organically, is catapulting toward a fever pitch. We think it will peak and eventually decline in 2018. As experts question the category, and the market is inevitably saturated with bottles of varying caliber, consumers and distributors alike will start to backpedal. We expect to see some of the bar and restaurant lists solely devoted to natural wines start to even out their offerings with traditional bottles.
New England IPAs Will Be Bigger — and Better
Hot on the heels of massive IPA growth has come New England IPAs (NEIPA), a hazy sub-genre that swaps hoppy bitterness for big, juicy flavors. NEIPAs are fashionable — “You can’t deny the popularity of the beer,” Mitch Steele, former Stone Brewing brewmaster, told VinePair earlier this year — but the category lacks refinement. “A lot of brewers have been going for aesthetics, the way it looks, rather than focusing on flavors, focusing on nuance,” John Holl, senior editor of Craft Beer & Brewing, said in an interview this month. As with natural wine, it’s exciting to buck convention, but quality control is imperative. We expect the category to continue to expand while recalibrating and refining itself in 2018.
Negroni Fans Reach for Rye
Negroni, a bitter, 98-year-old Campari cocktail, underwent an enormous marketing push in recent years, resulting in widespread acclaim as well as Negroni-flavored ice pops, a 2016 Negroni-themed Pandora playlist, and annual Negroni Week. These days the Boulevardier, a Negroni riff that swaps gin for rye or bourbon, is jockeying for prominence. “My heart will always belong to the Negroni,” Emily Arden Wells, founder of Gastronomista.com, an influential cocktail blog and drinkstagram account, wrote in an email, “But sometimes I cheat on my true love and enjoy a little variation in the form of a Boulevardier.” With rye consumption on the rise in the United States, and colder temperatures hitting a portion of the country, the Boulevardier’s ascendance is imminent.