Beer Trends in 2019: Lower ABVs, Smaller Formats and Listed Calories

Posted December 12, 2018 by Keith Seiz

Winter is stout season. Big, barrel-aged monsters with high ABVs, syrupy viscosities and hints of chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and chilis. I’m a seasonal beer drinking, shifting styles as the weather turns. I’m knee-deep in stout season and loving it, but duty calls and I’m obliged to set my stout aside for a second and look at beer trends for all of 2019.

My writing resolution for 2019 is a “less is more” approach, so I’m forcing myself to focus on only three trends that I feel will have the biggest impact on what you’ll be drinking next year.

1. Low-ABV Beers

How low can brewers go with ABV while still maintaining flavor, body and mouthfeel? This is a big question that will be answered in 2019. This trend has developed beyond session beers like Founder’s All Day IPA. We’re talking sub-4% levels. I’m on board with this trend. I love beer but not the buzz. Here are some of the standout low- and no-ABV beers I had this year.

Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer, Jester King Brewery
This beer has everything I love about farmhouse ales: hayfields and a bit of funkiness. And, at 2.9%, I can comfortably take down a large-format bottle (more on this below) from this Austin brewer on a hot summer day.

Grodziskie, Live Oak Brewing
I guess Austin knows how to do low ABV beers. I tasted this beer while winding down from a successful Honey Beer Summit. My spirits were high; my palate fatigued. I was rather surprised how much this Polish smoked wheat beer stood out after a couple days of morning, day and night drinking. With a 3% ABV, I was able to celebrate the success of our event while catching up a bit on work.

Golden Wheat, Wellbeing Brewery
This St. Louis craft brewer of non-alcoholic beers has bumped Busch NA out of my refrigerator as my standard gardening/grass-cutting beer. I can’t wait to see how this brewery and its lineup evolves. Flavor and 0.0% alcohol—what a time to be alive.

2. Continued Format Changes

I used to love buying bombers. 22-ounces of liquid in a bottle that rightfully elevated the perception of my beer when sitting next to my wife’s wine bottles. Then I turned 40 and got old. A bomber became a bit aggressive for a Tuesday night when I just wanted a 10-ounce pour.

I must not be alone in this manner of thinking as beer packaging formats continue to scale down in size. Sales of large format bottles are plummeting, sixers of cans have evolved into 4-packs and even the 12-ounce serving size is being questioned. Here are two format changes I gladly welcomed in 2018 and anticipate many more next year.

Saison de Lis, Perennial Artisan Ales
My desert island beer. The one beer my wife knew to buy cases of for my 40th birthday. I love this beer and was thrilled to see it hit store shelves this year in 4-pack cans. The bombers of this beer will always have a place in my heart, but the functionality and drinkability of the four-pack cans can’t be beat.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Jerk Bird, Off Color Brewing
Disclaimer: I’ve never actually had this beer. However, we’re talking about format changes here, and this Chicago brewer’s introduction of 8-ounce bottles has me hopeful that others will follow suit.

3. Calorie Counting and Craft Beer

I wrote about this very topic not too long ago and you can read about it here. A quick synopsis: the massive success of Michelob Ultra has spurred some craft breweries to start promoting the calorie counts of their “lower-calorie” beers. I’m not a big fan.


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