Editor’s note: This article embarks on a fictional series where we imagine the future of the craft beer industry from a perspective thirty years in the future. We were intrigued by a Porchdrinking article that talked of a “war” between craft and macro, and decided look ahead. How does today affect tomorrow?
The year is 2045. Craft beer has come a long way in the past 60 years. The Craft Revival beginning in 1989, where small independent brewing became a standard operation, paved the way for the Local Beer Renaissance, which appeared all across the United States in the 2000’s, which helped the now-defunct Brewers Association, rise up and establish an international beer powerhouse.
The International Expansion of 2018, where scores of American breweries took their ideals and recipes to Europe and Asia, stood poised to break a brewing balance the world had once known. While European and other historical brewers seemed limited by their forefathers, American brewers benefited from a subsequent absence of tradition, brewing with reckless abandon, utilizing new and interesting ingredients, forging new styles and flavors that continue to permeate the beer culture even today.
Some purists can even remember when barrel aging was a thing, long before the International Reforestation Act of 2031 made American Oak an endangered species and before we could get the same results in a fraction of the time.
Remember, way back in 2037, when Coca Cola was declared unsuitable for human consumption? It’s now an industrial cleaning product. I use it on my truck.
Bottled water? It was next to go. Remember in 2039, when the World Health Organization outlawed bottled water? Water companies wanted you to make believe you were enjoying water bottled in Fiji or the Swiss Alps, effectively suckling on nature’s teat, but in all actuality, you were licking radioactive drain pipes.
After the “Bottled Plague” where bacteria in bottled water counted for 13% of the deaths in 2038, the world had had enough. Since the Middle Ages, fermented beverages have been the safe choice, from a low-ABV session to a barrel aged imperial stout. People needed to feel safe with the things they were putting into their bodies.
We then turned to beer.
We all can remember a tipping point, in 2026, where craft brewers pushed above 50 percent of the global market. It had been a hard fought battle for over a decade, but craft beer kept making advances, gobbling up Bud’s territory hand over fist. Flash forward to a few years ago when craft easily held 85% of the market.
AB-Inbev-Heineken’s fate was sealed after their dismal sales two years ago. Domestics and imports ended the year down 20 percent across the board, and with craft beer gaining market share each and every day, their jump to 90 percent market share was within grasp.
Increasingly, craft beer has overtaken macro breweries’ stronghold on professional sports. From the NFL creating and endorsing the world’s first “performance enhancing beer” with Stone Brewing to the MLB officially partnering with the Brewers’ Association’s successor, The International Brewers Consortium, to require ballparks to serve local beer, craft beer has now become a major part of sports culture.
Some old-timers might say: “I remember a time when craft beer only produced 10% of the beer in this very nation…” No more…craft beer is king.
For the first time ever in their history, the newly formed conglomerate AB-InBev-Heineken found themselves reducing their lineup each and every quarter. Bud Light held on for a bit, but couldn’t keep up with the expansive popularity of session beers. Bud Light Lime was next. Even after its 50th Anniversary and rave reviews from the beer world for a “back to basics” recipe (utilizing kefir lime and sea salt), the clear-bottled beer was on the chopping block.
Its passing would leave Budweiser as the sole product line for Anheuser Busch. With crippling debts, only their craft entities were turning a profit. In a classically narrow-minded attempt to remain afloat, AB sold off Goose Island to New Belgium and Elysian to Duvel which only furthered the pall on their revival attempts. The final nail in the coffin happened when a consumer-run Kickstarter campaign to buy out the company failed.
The once-giant beer company finally pulled the plug. That was yesterday. It is a whole new world.
This might all seem a little scattered to start, but hopefully after the series is finished you’ll see a picture developing.
Our next chapter will imagine how small town America played a crucial part in the Rise of Craft. Until next time – cheers to craft beer.