About Josh Noel
Josh Noel has written about beer for the Chicago Tribune since 2009. In 2018 he published “Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch and How Craft Beer Became Big Business,” an exploration of the industry’s rise through the lens of Goose Island Beer Co. and its sale to Anheuser-Busch; it won “best book” from the North American Guild of Beer Writers in 2018. Josh is a career newspaper journalist, previously covering crime, travel, education and sports.
And just like that it happened. 2019 that is. A new year, filled with new possibilities, new beers, and new opportunities to cover beer news that matters. Whether you’re a blogger, professional beer writer, NAGBW member, Instagram Influencer, podcast host, or YouTube Star (we see you Tomasz Kopyra!), here are nine things we have our eye on for 2019 that should be worthy of your time and words.
- Craft Brewer Definition Changed. In December, the Brewers Association officially changed the definition of “craft brewer,” which had not been updated since 2006. According to the BA, “The “traditional” pillar became outdated because craft brewers, seeking new sources of revenue to keep their breweries at capacity and address market conditions, have created new products that do not fit the traditional definition of beer.” Where might this take craft beer? It definitely makes room for breweries to make other things like kombucha, seltzers, and (perhaps?) CBD/THC-infused beer.
- Breweries Open vs. Breweries Closed. The BA, in the next few months, will release the official tally for how many breweries closed versus opened, but one thing that its Chief Economist, Bart Watson, has already noted is that the number of closures is “on the rise,” and the gap between new breweries and those shutting their doors is getting smaller. Some of the breweries that made headlines last year because of closure or laying off parts of its workforce include Tallgrass, Deschutes, and Green Flash, among many others. How will craft breweries shake out in 2019?
- Can’t Not Talk About Cannabis. In March at our Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference (Burlington, Vermont) we had Jessica Lukas present for an hour about legal cannabis and how it might affect the beer industry. 10 states already have recreational marijuana (and Utah just voted to approve medical marijuana). She noted three key findings on the relationship between cannabis and beer:
- Cannabis is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S.
- Legal cannabis users are already beer consumers.
- Cannabis drives marketing, brand, and product innovations.
- Big or Small, Podcasts are Powerful. There’s a podcast for everything – from raising chickens (“What the Cluck?“) to building Legos. We’ve been on podcasts promoting our conferences, and several of our alumni have their own podcasts (shout out to Huck’s Beer Buzz). Even Brewbound jumped on board this September to launch their own podcast. So is 2019 the year to launch your own, resolve to listen to more, or start publishing “listicles” about which ones your audience should be listening to?
- Juicy, Hazy, Are They Crazy? Like them, love them, or leave them, “juicy” and “hazy” IPAs will be with us for the duration of 2019, and beyond. They’re now an official sub-category of IPAs judged at GABF, which our friend Julia Herz broke news to us at the 2018 Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference. So it might be a good idea to be well-versed in what they are, how they’re made, and what place they might secure in beer history. Start with this piece by Jeff Alworth, then jump over to Kate Bernot’s take on The Takeout.
- Go Easy, Won’t Ya? We had/have session beers. We have wheat beers “beermosas,” but 2019 might prove to be the year of “easy drinkin’!” Imbibe magazine (a personal favorite) wrote this piece back in July 2018, “Craft Breweries Embrace Light Beer,” and it should be a must-read. Joshua M. Bernstein writes, “Scroll through Instagram, peruse Twitter and tiptoe through Untappd, and you might assume that beer fans have blinders on for everything but IPAs and pastry stouts. Blow hype’s smokescreen aside, however, and you’ll see the light: Americans love low-ABV lagers. In January, sales data revealed that the country’s best-selling beers are Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite, the first time the top three were all light.” So blow away the smoke, you writers and beer advocates, and get down to what people are really drinking.
- Seven for Seven. Just because our friends at Hop Culture did such an excellent job with this piece, “7 Trends in the Beer Industry to Watch in 2019,” we are giving them our #7 slot and asking you to go read their piece for inspiration for finding content to cover this year. Their piece includes things like “The death of lactose” and coffee(!).
- Have Beer, Will Travel. Beer tourism is alive and well around the world. It’s thriving so well that we are entering the third year of hosting the Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference (Boise, Idaho, March 26-28, 2019). With so many of the newly opening breweries being taproom-focused, the need to get people to a state, region, or city, and then through the doors of a brewery (even if only during a brewery tour) cannot be underestimated. Our friends at CraftBeer.com published a nice piece showcasing the effect of “beer tourism” on the Jersey Shore (where New Jersey ranks 45th in the nation for breweries-per-capita). Did you know that 87% of the drinking-age population in the U.S. lives within 10 miles of a brewery? So where do you want to travel for beer in 2019?
- Wait, We can Answer That! You probably want to travel to the #2 state in the U.S. for breweries-per-capita, right? Well that would be Montana! And we’ll be hosting the 10th annual Beer Now Conference (formerly the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference) in the central city of Great Falls, MT. Whether you’ve been to a BBC in the past, you should know that the access to the local beer scene, top keynote speakers (in 2018 we had Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione), and content we fill each of our conferences with will provide both inspiration and education to fill your pages, podcasts, and feeds. Highlights for the 2019 Beer Now Conference include pre- and post-con excursions to Helena and Kalispell (respectively), where the 2018 Small Brewery of the Year resides (Helena) and some of the newest breweries in the state have opened (Kalispell). Attendees will be treated as VIP (literally) at one of the state’s best brewfests on June 8, and we’ll be having a few “adventures” along the way. And we’re working on having one of the most unique and memorable Live Beer Socials (formerly Live Beer Blogging) ever! Come adventure and drink with us at the 2019 Beer Now Conference. Register here!
So what did we miss? What do you have your eye on for 2019? Tell us in the comments below. See you in June!
Zephyr Adventures will offer a six-day Hike, Bike & Beer Adventure in the areas of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks September 9-14, 2011. The guided tour includes hiking and biking activities during the early part of the day and then focuses on visiting local craft breweries, ale houses, beer fests, and hop growers in the late afternoons. The tour visits six breweries in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
The business of craft brewing has been booming in recent years. Even in a down economy, craft beer grew 12% in dollar sales in the first half of 2010 and there are now almost 1,600 breweries in the country, according to the Brewers Association.
The growth in the number of breweries means that beer lovers can usually find local beers and often visit a brewpub when they travel. Yet the idea of “beer tourism” where people visit an area for its beers and breweries has not really taken off yet, except for a few tours to places like Belgium.
Zephyr Adventures, a Montana-based tour company that also runs the Beer Bloggers Conference, is out to change that. Figuring that beer lovers might also enjoy an active vacation, they have created their first-ever active beer tour, a six-day hiking and biking vacation in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks that will feature excellent local scenery, activities, and breweries.
“We are excited to run our first-ever active beer tour and couldn’t think of a better place than our own back yard”, explains Allan Wright, owner of Zephyr Adventures. “The scenery is amazing, the activities perfect for all ability levels, and the local craft beers are superb!”
Zephyr Adventures successfully offers active wine & food tours around the globe and looks to use the Yellowstone Hike, Bike & Beer Adventure as a springboard to launch and grow the concept of active beer tourism.
“We like to think Zephyr is seizing on a unique niche that is destined to grow”, says Reno Walsh, who set up the tour for Zephyr. “We invite all beer lovers to come explore the Northern Rockies via some fun hiking and biking and to then slake a well-deserved thirst with some fantastic local craft brews.”
The six-day tour includes lodging, local transportation, most meals, brewery visits & private tours, and activities for $1700 per person. For more information visit www.ZephyrAdventures.com.