What’s In Store For 2019: Predictions from 6 Local Beer Experts

What’s in store for the craft beer scene in 2019? We asked a few people in the know to each look into their crystal ball.

The beginning of a new year means that it’s time for predictions — guesses on what the craft beer scene will bring in 2019. Personally, I think we’ll still see plenty of hazy IPAs this year. I think that localization will continue to hurt the largest of the craft breweries. And, I’m kind of hoping that the brut IPA goes away. But I’m hardly the expert.

I asked a few randomly chosen (seriously, I drew names out of a hat) local beer dignitaries to offer their thoughts on what they think the 2019 trends will be: trends they’d like to see go away, and predictions for the local beer scene.

Brewery owners Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright at the bar
Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright (photo courtesy of Third Space)

Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright, Co-Owners, Third Space Brewing

We expect the hot trends of 2018 to ramp up even further in 2019 — hazy IPAs, milkshake IPAs, pastry stouts and gimmicky beers like glitter beers — perhaps to the point of over saturation and consumer fatigue.

We also expect the bigger breweries to make even further inroads into styles they haven’t in the past. You can see this happening already with how many larger craft breweries already have brut IPAs mass produced and in the market, a style created just over a year ago.

There also seems to be a trend of always having to release a new beer, even when it means just making little tweaks to another recipe to call it “new”. Fewer breweries are focusing on developing core brands or brands with staying power in the market. The downside of this strategy is that it breeds consumers who are always looking for something new and less willing to go back to their favorites.

We are excited to see the maturing of the Milwaukee craft beer market and the local craft beer consumer. We now can find great local beer on tap in bars throughout the area and even in venues like Miller Park, Fiserv Forum and local theaters. We are also seeing start-up breweries growing into mainstays in the market and getting respect both nationally and from local consumers and retailers. Much of that maturing comes from consumer demand for local products, a demand that has grown from consumers recognizing the many quality offerings we have in Milwaukee.

John Graham, Founding Partner, The Crafter Space

I think the haze craze will continue. Considering one-third of beers sold in the U.S. are hop-forward and these juicy, borderline sweet, hazy IPAs are even more approachable, I can only see consumers continuing to latch on. When my father purchased a six-pack of Warpigs Foggy Geezer at a local supermarket, I knew the style was here to stay.

IPAs will continue to rule the day, but I do think that some people are now interested in craft lager in addition to the hoppy offerings. I’d very much enjoy a brewery visit where I can have a great local hazy IPA followed by two to three great craft lagers.

The over-blending of styles is hard for me to adopt. IPAs should be bitter or hop forward, so sweet milkshake IPAs are discordant in my mind. Another style could benefit from sweet or juicy lactose, but keep the sweet out of my IPA. Let the malt and hops shine in that style.

I believe competition breeds quality. Having more breweries in the market, and even some more entering, will force everyone to improve.

Photo courtesy of Lakefront Brewery

Russ Klisch, Co-Founder, Lakefront Brewery

Hazy, juicy, milkshake, and brut IPAs, along with sours, will continue to be getting the internet buzz. But flavorful, lower alcohol beers will be the good sellers.

I’d like to see brewers and industry people stop talking about a shakeout in the industry. Wisconsin and Milwaukee have about the right amount of breweries for their size and I just don’t see a shakeout coming. All this talk only makes the industry look bad.

I’m excited about the rebirth of North Avenue entertainment district and going down there and having a few beers.

Mike Romans, Owner, Romans’ Pub

We’ll continue to see the proliferation of new breweries, both locally and nationally, along with some surprising mergers, acquisitions and closings.

I believe we’ve reached the saturation point with area beer gardens.

I’m looking forward to some of the younger Milwaukee brewers producing excellent styles. Nothing is fresher than local.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

Tom “Grynder” Ciula, Certified Beer Judge and Local Beer Guru

Many people still think that brut IPA is doable. Someone will come up with a full-bodied, fruity, very dry IPA, and that will spark imitators.

A way of allowing hops to age better in cans or maybe even improve will be utilized. And a way of making 6.2% ABV beers that taste the same as 8.6% ABV beers will come forth.

Gimmick beers with all styles will be more common.

More breweries will make “rare” releases in the $40 range. And brewers will try to make more of their special releases, allowing more people to make the trip with assurances that they will procure a bottle or two.

Matt Hofmann at FoBAB
Photo courtesy of Matt Hofmann.

Matt Hofmann, Brewer, St. Francis Brewery

I’d bet the hazy IPAs continue to grow in popularity. Maybe pastry stouts and sours will gain more of foothold in the Milwaukee area this year. I also expect the trend of the Milwaukee beer scene getting better and more adventurous to continue.

I am excited about the evolution and growth of beer in southeastern Wisconsin. We already had several solid breweries, but we are seeing some newcomers that are really helping elevate the quality and creativity in the beer produced in this area. Most of all, I am excited to have my very own brewery add to this trend. (Note: Hofmann plans to open Sahale Ale Works in Grafton this summer.)



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.