The modern beer industry is less about what you're drinking now and more about what it can get you to drink next.
There are more than 4,100 breweries in the U.S. in 2016. Large breweries are buying up small craft brewers (and even large competitors) at a clip. Though light lager like Budweiser, Coors Light and Miller Lite still comprises the overwhelming majority of beer drunk in the United States (Bud Light alone still accounts for one out of every five beers sold here, according to Beer Marketer's Insights), brewers of all types still want to get you to try their ciders, low-alcohol “session” India Pale Ale and beer-and-juice/soda shandies and radlers.
Why? Because, as Nielsen, IRI and just about every other firm measuring beer sales note, traditional styles are dying and taking beer sales down with them. While craft beer, cider and flavored malt beverages boast double-digit percentage point growth almost annually, beer sales overall have either remained stagnant with less than a percentage point's worth of growth or have slid. Beer accounts for 47.8% of all alcohol sales, compared to 34.7% for spirits and just 17% for wine, according to the Distilled Sprits Council of the United States. Yet beer's share has actually fallen from 55% in 2000 thanks largely to U.S. light lager's collapse, and even craft beer has been cautious about not attaching itself to any one style -- despite watching IPA take more than 27% of all craft beer sales in 2015 after sitting at just 8% in 2008, according to IRI.
Thus, you get a radlers, session IPA and the like that you've seen above, but you also get grapefruit IPAs and root-beer-flavored malt beverages that multiply exponentially as soon as one takes off. It's within each brewer's best interest to jump on a popular beer style as soon as it lands, and it isn't always the traditionally defined craft brewers leading. Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, for example, is part of the MillerCoors family and has been owned by Miller since 1988. However, after introducing its Summer Shandy in 2007, it not only grew out of its Great Lakes niche and spread across the U.S., but it's set the pace for just about every other brewer who's wanted to make a shandy or radler of their own.
Just as you've seen brewers pick up “hard root beer” after the success of Not Your Father's Root Beer from Pabst-owned Small Town Brewery in Wauconda, Ill., and grapefruit IPA after the growth of Grapefruit Sculpin from Constellation Brands-owned Ballast Point in San Diego, other styles will follow in the search for the next big thing. Our senses tend to be just a bit off when it comes to figuring out exactly what beers are going to transform from beer-festival favorites to summer-cooler superstars, so we've enlisted the help of Nielsen to determine which styles you're going to be seeing a lot of within the next year.