Beer is a social drink and during this time of social distancing, it has adversely affected the sale of beers forcing the brewers to dispose of the already produced brews that passed its shelf life.
Due to the closure of the hospitality sector, beers were the most affected amongst all the alcohol drinks. Last year was one of the worst years any of us has suffered, and that goes double for microbreweries, brewpubs, bars, restaurants. Despite the difficulties, brewers are doing what they do best — creating and releasing innovative Craft Beers that keep consumers coming back for more.
New ways to sell Beers: We will see a continuation and expansion of several trends which are related to COVID-19 e.g. online sales of beers, home delivery of growlers, maximizing available outdoor space where possible for customers in Taproom, Digital Menus etc. Permission to fill craft beer in growlers and deliver to customers at their homes plays a big role in survival of microbreweries in Maharashtra & Karnataka during the times of pandemic. Obviously, growler delivery has played a huge role in mitigating the effects of taproom closures due to COVID-19. Breweries changed their business model in just a matter of weeks once they got permission to deliver craft beer in growlers, and will need to continue to leverage these new distribution platforms into the New Year. At Drifters we opened a number of small Growlers Stations in different areas of Mumbai & Pune to sell our craft beers in Growlers for Pick-up and Delivery, across both the cities. Many more breweries follow the same model in Maharashtra to increase their sales and as per my view this trend will continue in next year.
Fruit Sours and IPAs will lead the way in 2021: While it’s always fun to speculate which new and innovative styles & techniques will define beer in the year ahead, I think 2021’s most important trend is going to be in relation to customer experience and human resources. “Craft beer is all about the people”.
Craft beer trend is picking up very fast in India and with this trend people also want to know and experience their beers differently than before. If we talk about which styles of beer will trend in 2021 then, two types come to my mind, Fruit Sours and Hazy IPAs, Fruit Sours are made with local and exotic fruit infusion with natural sourness generated by lactobacillus bacteria and is creamy enough to balance that sourness. Hazy IPAs are very hoppy, fruity and an unfiltered IPA, they tend to be very low in bitterness with some tropical and juicy flavours. Hazy IPAs also have a fuller & creamier mouth feel.
‘Lagers’ get Respect in Craft Industry: One more trend started last year which is going to be continuing for a long time is the craft industry getting a respect for a Lager. Lager has suffered a lot in the craft beer market due to their impression of being sold in commercial bottles. But now breweries have started experimenting with lagers and people are also reacting to it very well. As everyone is used to drinking lager from a commercial bottle since long, they already have developed a taste for it. Here at Drifters we have three to four different kinds of Lagers always on Tap for our customers to enjoy, such as Helles (German Lager), Vienna Lager, Amber Lager, Pilsner (Czech Pale Lager), IPL (India Pale Lager).
Events go Virtual: This year, we’ve seen large scale functions and events go virtual, and that will also apply to the Craft Beer industry. Many breweries started doing quizzes, live events and show online to attract more customers with an option to deliver growlers to their home so they can join live events whilst sipping and enjoying beers from the comfort of their home, which they used to do in Taproom. I don’t see this trend going anywhere, at least for the entire next year.
Finally I can say, the Craft Beer sector doesn’t necessarily need to be modernized, but craft brewers are changing slowly. The whole craft beer market will become ever more inclusive and innovative with a greater growth expected over the next few years.