Beer trends in 2014

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Jordan St. John, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:25 PM ET

2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year for beer in Canada. Craft beer is edging towards the mainstream and with that popularity has come a large number of craft startups and contract brewers who are vying for your attention in the market. The vast majority of trends that will take place in 2014 are due to this explosion of breweries and brands. I’m here to walk you through what you’re going to see this year:

Lower alcohol beer styles

With so many different brands on the market, one of the primary strengths of craft beer at the moment is novelty. It’s always nice to be able to try several different things. That being said, the average beer drinker doesn’t really feel comfortable with snifter or wine-size glasses yet. They still want a pint of beer. For that reason, brewers will make more flavourful lower alcohol options. We’ll see English bitters with novel hopping, table beers with significant character and the creative use of roast flavours in quaffable stouts and milds.

Large brewers continue to bend the craft market

With newfound enthusiasm for flavourful, small batch beer dominating market growth, large brewers will continue to engage with the idea. One key indicator of this trend is the Alexander Keith’s Single Hop series. The two offerings that they started with were Hallertau and Cascade. The project seems to have done well enough to merit a third variety using the firm and fruity Galaxy hop from Australia.

Regional craft brewers expand

Craft Brewers of a certain size will attempt to expand their reach into other provinces to become national brands. This includes breweries like Big Rock, Steam Whistle, Mill Street and Muskoka. I hear rumblings from several quarters that high-quality craft brewers will make incursions into the American marketplace.

Alberta beer explosion

With the recent changes to legislation in Alberta that removed volume restrictions on brewing, we’re going to see a number of small brewers staking their claim on the market. I predict six to eight new breweries in Alberta by the end of the year and more on the way. The enthusiasm is there; the first license was signed within 24 hours of the changeover.

New distribution channels in Ontario

With so many craft brands available in the market, it can be hard for new brewers to get on the shelves at the LCBO. The Beer Store is an option, but it’s not great for very small brewers who can’t afford the buy in. In 2014, people will finally take advantage of third-party delivery. Online ordering will allow seasonal and specialty beers from small breweries to make it into the hands of consumers without taking up shelf space. Longo’s wide selection through their online portal, Grocery Gateway, provides an excellent model for the enterprising young man with a van.

Jordan St. John writes about beer at saintjohnswort.ca. This week he’s writing about the OTHER delivery model.

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