Beer Buzz: Craft beer predictions for 2012

Professional brewers and beer business people in Arizona predict the future of Craft beer: both in Arizona and for the nation. Picture courtesy Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic. Ron Kloth, owner of Papago Brewing Company, passed an extensive test on beer knowledge, from brewing to serving, including how to pair different beers with certain foods to become a cicerone. -The Professor

Written by Andy Ingram for azcentral.com

New Year’s resolutions never seem to stick. And looking back over the past year, picking winners and losers doesn’t appeal to me, either.

Predictions, however, seem right up my alley.

Better yet, I decided to ask a beer educator, a bar owner and a brewer what they see in their crystal balls as it pertains to craft brewing for 2012. Here’s what they said.

Steves Parkes, owner and lead instructor of the American Craft Brewers Guild

Parkes’ guild, located in Vermont, is a leading brewing school. If you’re serious about brewing, I’d get serious about schooling, and ACBG is one of the best. (Full disclosure: Parkes was my instructor, and he has very high standards.)

He predicts there will be a return to session beers “if brewers get it right.”

The return, Parkes suggests, will be in conjunction with “less wood, less sour and less fruit beers.” In other words, a return to the traditional.

Layrd Mahler, owner of Sonoran Brewing Co.

He predicts Arizona beers will make a big splash on the national scene this year.

“Arizona will be on the craft beer map big-time. A brewery, or two, will show itself as the face of Arizona craft brewing on a national/semi-national (West Coast) level.”

He adds that, “Truly unique brews will come from the craft breweries in Arizona.”

Ron Kloth, owner of Papago Brewing Co. and contractor of his own beer

Kloth predicts that “craft-beer sales nationwide will continue to increase, approaching 17 percent.”

He also thinks canned beer will continue to grow in popularity, noting that, “Sierra Nevada packaging beer in cans will help make craft beer in cans become more mainstream.”

On the upside, Kloth also believes that “five to 10 new breweries will open in Arizona.” On the downside, “beer prices will increase because of higher barley costs.”

And in a dig to yours truly, he notes that, “Four Peaks will double the amount of pumpkin porter they make, and it still won’t be enough to satisfy demand.”

From your lips, Ron.

As for me, I tend to agree with most of the above.

I also expect more consolidation coming down the pike — that is, more brewery mergers and perhaps more acquisitions of small breweries by very big breweries.

Despite the meteoric growth of craft beer, I’m just not certain that the whole pie will grow, maybe forcing another shakeout like the one in the late ’90s.

Change like this is good, though; it will make the industry stronger.

Also, we’ll see the rise of the nano-brewery — small breweries dedicated to high quality and low production. Nano-breweries will be short-lived if they’re not good. On the flip side, if they’re too good, they’ll be able to stay small for only so long.

We will see a beer from BJ’s Brewery in Chandler win a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. OK, not a stretch; it wins one every year.

And I predict we will see a pale ale from the forever lager-centric Gordon-Biersch Brewery. And it will be quite good.

Finally, I predict that craft beer will become America’s drink. Like it was before Prohibition. Like it was before the homogenization of the mega-breweries. Like it always should have been.

At least, I hope so.

Andy Ingram is owner and brewmaster of Tempe’s Four Peaks Brewery. Reach him at andy@fourpeaks.com. Follow him on Twitter (@fourpeaksbrew) or Facebook.