Revisiting my 2008 predictions

A year ago I—like many other people—posted a set of five beer predictions for 2008. Since it’s now the new year, let’s revisit those and see how well I did.

Here’s the summary list of my predictions:

1) The hop shortage is going to get worse and get more mainstream coverage.

2) In response to the hop shortage, expect to see much more of two kinds of beer being brewed and getting noticed: session beers and “extreme” beers where the brewers experiment with (for lack of a better term) hop substitutes: spruce, heather, sage, etc. “Hop alternative” beers could be the next big thing.

3) Dogfish Head will brew an historic beer: that Pueblo corn beer.

4) Barrel aging, which was a big trend for 2007, is going to take off in a big way.

5) Finally, this is going to be the year of the beer blog, and I think it’s going to start with The Session breaking out in the mainstream media in some way.

I have to say, looking over this list, that 2008 was both very similar and very different than I predicted.

The hop shortage: yes, it was still there, but I don’t think it got worse—arguably, things got better—and it seemed to get even less mainstream coverage than 2007, probably because the sensationalism of the story had worn off. In fact, there were probably more stories of brewers planting their own hops than anything else I’d seen mentioned on the topic.

Hop alternative/session beers: I was completely off-base on this one. In fact, I don’t think we even saw brewers slow down—instead, they seemed to brew bigger beers and use more hops. (For instance, Deschutes Brewery’s seven different fresh hop beers.) And sure, there were extreme beers brewed with unusual ingredients, but they weren’t motivated by the hop shortage that I could tell—they were despite it.

Dogfish Head’s historic beer: Right on the money, though wrong on the beer. Instead of the Pueblo corn beer I linked to, Dogfish introduced Theobroma, an Aztec-influenced chocolate beer:

This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.  As per the analysis, Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (translated into ‘food of the gods’) is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).

Of course, I just get a kick out of figuring out what Dogfish will brew next.

Barrel aging: Yeah, this was kind of a no-brainer. Seems like everybody’s putting anything and everything into a barrel these days. I think I was right on the money.

Year of the beer blog: Yes and no. I think online, the number of beer blogs has been exploding (even I can’t keep up) among all levels—amateur, casual blogging, publications, podcasting, professional, established authors—and it’s especially gratifying to see the number of breweries adopting blogs. But The Session never “broke out” in any way that I could see, certainly not into the mainstream media, which is a little disappointing. But there’s always 2009.

So it looks like I was about 50% on my predictions. Not bad! Now, I need to think up some predictions for 2009; I’ll try to having something posted on that in the next few days.