With 2011 sizing up to be a thrilling year for beer, the drinks business picked the brains of several leading on-trade operators and industry observers and, like a FIFA executive prodding a German octopus, asked them for their predictions.
Owner of the Draft House Group, three boutique beer bars in South London
“In 2011, the smaller players have the most to gain. I’ve just spent the weekend with a friend who’s just bought a derelict pub in Shropshire. It’s in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields, but there are five or six breweries within a 10 mile radius – four of which have opened in the last year or so.
“There’s an incredible amount of excitement and innovation, and some great entrepreneurs, involved in craft brewing and micro-brewing – British beer is really booming. Be it cask ale or keg beer, those pubs and bars who aren’t embracing this fact will fall by the wayside.
“I admire what Cotswold Brewing are doing, while Sambrook’s in South London are extremely well-placed, both in terms of geography and beer styles, to benefit from cask ale’s rise in popularity. Likewise, also in London, the Kernel Brewery is making a big buzz. Evin O’Riordain is a very authentic and enthusiastic brewer and is clearly destined for great things.
“I’d also be delighted if people really recognised how good Budweiser Budvar is. There’s something really earthy about Budvar. I love the whole story behind the brewery and the fact that it remains state-owned. There’s genuine integrity there and it’s a mainstream beer but its size hasn’t diminished its quality. It’s a great Czech beer, so too is Budvar Dark, while the unpasteurised Budvar yeast beer is a rare phenomenon. I have no idea why drinkers have become blas? about it.”Phil Lowry
Brewer, importer and industry observer from Cave Direct/BeerMerchants
“In 2011, the trend that I believe will gain traction is a British brewing celebration of niche global styles and a move beyond cask ale. There’s been an exciting evolution of ingredients and approach in the last few years and I expect that to gather momentum, while brewers will continue to communicate better with drinkers through social media. There’s growing camaraderie among the craft brewers so I expect to see an increasing number of collaborative brews and not just in cask ale – keg will continue to grow.
“The Kernel Brewery in London is definitely one to watch. Primarily because it’s small enough to respond to a changing market, it’s a huge market on his doorstep, it’s intrinsically linked with the London food scene and its trail-blazing beers really capture drinkers’ imaginations and are in some top-end restaurant like Hawksmoor and St. John’s.
“The time is right for the emergence of a genuine British lager. Not every brewer has the equipment to brew a lager and there’s no mileage in replicating a Foster’s or a Carling, but I believe there’s a real opportunity for a highly-hopped lager with an esoteric or experimental bias. A British lager will not sell just because it’s British, it has to be a genuinely quality lager and it’d be great if someone like Thornbridge could step up.
“People want to know what will be the next Stella or the next Peroni, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore. With fuel costs and duty rising, and with young drinkers travelling less to places like Laos and South America, interest in lagers from ‘exotic’ or ‘tropical’ destinations is beginning to wane.
“Instead, the trend seems to be a return to places with genuine brewing heritage. We can see through the keywords on the Cave Direct website that people are looking for beers brewed in nations with a genuine brewing background – such as the Czech Republic, Belgium and Germany. One of my favourite beers, one that I enjoy when I get home from work, is Rothaus Pils.”
Euston Tap, London
“Looking forward to 2011, I will be keeping a close eye on Thornbridge. After starting to get through some of their range in Key Keg, things are looking interesting and with two new brewers and the inclusion of a beer brewed with the Galaxy hop, things shall continue to impress.
“I think the appreciation for unfiltered lager will see the interest in smaller Czech brewers continue to grow, with the likes of Matuska and Kocour gaining popularity.
“I also expect great things for Victory Brewery when its draught American beers arrive later in the year. Their Hop Devil IPA will be one to watch closely especially as draught is rare among the waves of great IPAs making their way across the Pond.”
Rake Bar & Utobeer, London
“After a first full year as a professional brewery, the Kernel Brewery in Bermondsey is the hot new thing of the brewing world. The branding is simple and the beers are phenomenal, its second year professionally should be pretty exciting.
“Otherwise, Quilmes – a 4.9% premium lager from Argentina – is great value for money and the branding is distinctive enough to go a long way. Thanks to listings with Oddbins and Tesco, off-trade sales increased by 80% last year and the brand has also seen growth of 35% in the on-trade since being taken on by Morgenrot Group.
“Also worth looking out for is Beaumonts Ginger Beer, an alcoholic ginger beer that’s not dissimilar to Idris Ginger beer but with a more subtle ginger bite.”
“The Ink Rooms” in Lavender Hill, Lost Society and Citizen Smith
“Within the last couple of years we have really seen the increase in public awareness of micro brewed beers. For 2011 the public’s thirst for these exciting and innovative beers will only continue to grow.
“The Meantime brand has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate and its consistent quality has developed consumer trust and a huge following for their products. In addition Alistair Hook and the team are not scared to promote a beer that’s left of centre – its Meantime London Lager is a great addition to their range. A few years ago an English lager would have raised a few eyebrows but, now, people are raising their glasses. This product was released late last year and already seems to have captured the imagination of drinkers in our bars. Brewed to extremely high German standards and attractively packaged, it seems to attract the casual drinker. At last, an English product prepared to take on the Continental lager giants.
“With London seemingly experiencing a micro brewing boom at the moment, a great example of the quality being brewed in the Capital is Kernel Brewery. Speciality beers have also become increasingly popular and work especially well for beer and food matching. Kernel brew some truly memorable beers such as their Pale Ale and Porter, but the newly-released Imperial stout is a perfect example of a specialist beer that fits really well as digestif on a drinks menu. Full of intense, rich coffee flavours it goes well with a chocolate dessert.
“American craft beer has seen an enormous rise in popularity in recent years with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale being cornerstone to any good world beer list.
“Goose Island have also have seen a huge growth on these shores with their IPA and Honkers ale but it is their 312 Urban Ale that has struck a chord with the younger drinkers. Even though it is based on a wheat beer, it is a stepping stone from session lagers to the more cultured ales on our lists and we find that it is a perfect beer to get customers to try when they are looking to sample something a little different.”
Assistant brand manager for Nicholson’s Pubs
“If you’re looking for the next Peroni then it would have to be Aspall Suffolk Blonde. It’s doing a fantastic job currently in the twenty Nicholson’s that stock it, often outselling more recognised rivals for the premium lager position on the bar. The staff massively play on the fact they have an English craft lager available that is rarely found around the UK – which for Nicholson’s just fits in with our values perfectly of the best British pubs with the best British products.
“Thornbridge will continue to grow due to its expertise and quality, but coming up behind it over the next 12 months you’re likely to see beers from Vale, Hopdaemon and Moor. The former two we’ve had great success with during our January Beer Festival with customers requesting that we put them on for a longer period (Vale New Dawn and Hopdaemon Incubus).
“The trend to look out for over the next 12 months is customers diving in to the stronger beer category. With people attempting to drink less, what they do drink is allowed to be stronger, and must be packed full of flavour. So beers like Punk IPA, Thornbridge Jaipur and Hook Norton Haymaker are going to become more popular year on year.”