Brewery Owners 2019 Industry Predictions

After spending most of the year talking to brewers and prognosticating on what the future of the industry holds, I thought it would be fun to see what some of the owners of Oregon and Washington’s premier breweries think. I reached out to about a dozen of them before Christmas and remarkably seven got back to me amidst their holiday commitments.

Larry Sidor (right) and I

” 1. President Trump fulfills campaign promise of building a wall between Mexico and US. He uses executive privilege to allow the addition of THC to Mexican Lagers. He claims victory for establishing a “stone wall” between the two countries.

2. The sub-$10 six-packs of craft beer disappears in 2019. Molson Coors / MillerCoors closes Irwindale brewery due to lack of interest in brewing Pabst.

3. A significant economic downturn will occur in 2019 stressing those brewers who are not prepared.

4. Anheuser-Bush InBev ceases brewing at their Newark brewery and turns the brewery into a Stella warehouse as demand for North American Light Lagers continue to decrease. Chris Christie closes a runway at Newark International (just next door) in protest.

6. There will be 8001 operating breweries in by the end of 2019.

7. Beer bitterness levels continue to drop while hop usage rates increase. Hop usage surpass 1.8 pounds per Bbl in 2019.

8. Brewpubs continue to grow at double digit rates.

9. Anheuser-Bush InBev will brew 80% of its fake craft beer in its mega breweries in 2019.

10. Governor Kate Brown addresses Oregon’s dismal high school graduation rate. She has the words “and not graduated from high school” added to the OLCC definition of a minor to address this shameful situation.

– Larry Sidor, owner and founding Brewmaster of Crux Fermentation Project

Paul Reiter

In 2019, I see more breweries continuing to experiment with adding new and exciting ingredients to beer, including everything from pastries to maybe more savory foods.  The general public and your average beer drinker will love those experimental trends, though on the flipside, I see more brewers themselves and beer aficionados strictly crushing classic styles.”

As for the beer reseller market, I feel like more and more people are getting into that game.  It’s a shame on one hand because it makes it hard for people who really want to try to find a hard to find beer (read: BBDS Box Set) at a decent price, but then again on the flipside – everyone’s gotta have a side hustle, with the Portland housing and rental market looking like San Francisco!

– Paul Reiter, co-owner of Great Notion Brewing

Adam Robbings (left) with his Reuben’s Brews crew after winning a gold medal at the 2017 GABF

Beer tastes and styles will continue to evolve at a breakneck pace! Like the fleeting here and now of Brut IPA which we witnessed this year, I think we’ll see lots more substyles come – but few stick.  As craft beer continues to innovate, and innovate even faster, this is a natural phenomenon. Beer needs to continue to evolve and move forward as we head towards the end of a great decade for beer.  Hazy IPAs are here to stay – and with the amazing innovation in the industry, 2019 will be another fun one for sure.

– Adam Robbings, owner of Reuben’s Brews

Jeff Althouse

I’m really excited to see the changes in the beer business in 2019. People will increase their visits to taprooms and brewpubs, and will favor those providing the best combination of service, environment, and high-quality fresh beer. Cannabis will continue to capture share of buzz, which will help reinforce the importance of product freshness to the experience of consuming. Big beer, including the top 50 of the Brewers Association’s confusingly defined ‘independent’ brewers, will continue to lose volume as consumer product and brand loyalty transitions to loyalty toward makers and establishments where they feel they’re with family and friends. Many large brewers will double down on using price as a lever, and in doing so will reinforce their distribution in national grocery chains.  =Meanwhile, the more agile and truly small brewers will turn their attention to channels where draft only and limited release package beers are prized. The changes we’ll see in 2019 will provide people with increased access to the highest quality, fresh, local and innovative beers, and even more wonderful places to drink.

– Jeff Althouse, owner of Oakshire Brewing

Steve Luke

My super bold prediction is that balance makes it way back into beer. We’ve seen the low and slow rise of craft lagers, thanks in part to brewers near and far expressing their love and preference for them. Now I’d like to see that passion for sessionability make it’s way over to ales – be they IPA, Pales, Blondes, & the like.  Beers that are attenuated, balanced with malt and hops, that have a noticeable bitterness and a quenching finish. Beer you can eat lots of food with, and still hold its own. Beer you can re-order. Here’s to 2019 being the year of balance, subtlety, restraint, & finesse.

– Steve Luke, brewer/co-owner of Cloudburst Brewing

Josh Pfriem

I predict that 2019 will be a mixed bag for beer and the beer industry. I think alcohol waters, THC/CBD beverages, hard kombucha, etc. will make a lot of noise next year. Meanwhile, competition for marketshare will be more competitive than ever. In this loud environment, high quality, innovative, and relevant brewers will continue to keep beer interesting and make beer drinkers happy. Well-made lagers and drinkable hop forward beer will continue to grow in popularity, all the while niche crafted barrel aged beers will find more places at the table.

– Josh Pfriem, co-owner/brewmaster at pFriem Family Brewers

Scott Lawrence of Breakside Brewery

I hear a lot of negative thoughts from friends in Oregon and elsewhere on the current state of our beer industry.  Some of that is probably cautionary and some reality as the market is pretty full with with big breweries that are hemorrhaging (fighting) and lots of breweries our size and smaller looking to grow.  There isn’t room for all to prosper.  No one wants to be in a position where they’ve over-leveraged themselves, but the breweries making great beer and being thoughtful about their business approach are still thriving.  We are really excited for 2019 at Breakside because we’ve built what we think is a solid foundation over the last 9 years that now lets us focus on the fun and exciting aspects of running a brewery.  The thing I’m most excited about and will help us work into the future is that we’ll be giving 30% of the company to our employees.  30% is where we are starting, but I envision going to 100% employee ownership in the future.  I think this will make us a stronger company and allow us to ride the waves of the beer industry.  We’ve built this little company together and it’s so great to be able to reward everyone with its success.  Cheers to beer, all those who support it and to a great 2019 for all of us!

– Scott Lawrence, owner of Breakside Brewery

Samurai Artist
Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: