1. Beer will decline this generation for many well-documented reasons. It will be the next decade before the pendulum swings back toward beer. Beer as reward, beer as social catalyst, beer as a badge…everything that traditionally made beer the preferred beverage is less relevant than ever.
2. ABI/MC will rebound and begin to dominate the retail shelves and the airways. Heavy media behind hard seltzers and beverages yet to be invented will draw in the youngest adult consumers and drive volume the old fashioned way – with displays, features and price.
3. Distributors need to survive; so big beer brands become cash cows to be harvested as distributors invest in growth opportunities. Some distributors will sell out at greatly reduced valuations and wish they had sold out earlier.
4. Alternative beverages to beer will evolve, and as hard seltzers run their course, other non-beer alcoholic beverages will take their place. Smart entrepreneurs will open new, successful beer/beverage companies to give consumers what they want. Current industry innovation leaders mark Anthony Brands and Boston Beer will continue to move quickly to stay ahead of trends.
5. Breweries will find the road ever bumpier. Debt, excess capacity, corporate profit seeking/loss avoidance will drive consolidations and closures. Brewery closures will exceed openings in 2020 and this trend will accelerate in future years.
6. But some craft breweries will succeed because they are financially sound and have built a bond with their “fans” and earned the trust of their customers. There is always room for new (and old) successful craft breweries.
7. Taprooms will remain relevant gathering spaces because there is not pressure to drink, as is in a bar, because the taproom experience goes beyond just drinking. Eight thousand (or fewer) entrepreneurs will learn from each other and figure out how to draw people in and sell enough pints to stay open. But eventually, like discos and sports bars, people will move on to the next thing.
8. Later this decade, there will be a back-to-basics movement. Fewer varieties of beverages and coalescence toward full-bodied lagers and simplicity. A reversal of today’s trends.
9. Self-driving cars will facilitate a re-socialization where people again congregate to eat and drink socially and get home safely and legally.
10. Maybe, finally, common sense will prevail sometime later in this decade and States will be allowed to self-determine their legal drinking age. Cannabis, vaping and other teen behaviors are worse than beer for 18-20 year olds.
January 6, 2020