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Trends in Beer

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As someone who is embedded in the craft beer world I am asked almost on a daily basis what I think the next big trend in the craft beer world will be. In this article we will take a look at what I would consider to be the current craft beer trends as well as what will be the next big "thing" in the future. Before we do that though let us consider why craft beer drinkers are obsessed with the notion of the next big craft beer trend. The answer may not be as clear cut as you may expect. Essentially though it boils down to the proliferation of small craft brewers throughout the country trying to differentiate themselves from the pack. In some areas of the country craft breweries are popping up at an extremely rapid rate which is creating a surplus of great beer.

Jukas' Russian River Row 2 Hill 56 Clone
In order to be successful in these competitive markets breweries not only have to be able to brew a great beer but must be able to differentiate themselves from the competition, and this second point is usually what leads to the next big trend in craft beer. All it takes is for one brewery to brew something a little different that catches the imagination of the craft beer craving public to throw that next big beer trend into the lexicon of the craft beer world. A few notable examples of this phenomenon are when Boston Beer and Goose Island decided to age big beers in spirit barrels, Russian RIver and Stone throwing caution to the wind and brewing with exorbitant amounts of hops creating what we know today as the standard West Coast IPA and Brewery Ommegang and Allagash deciding to challenge what the public knows about European beers and brew Belgian styles exclusively with great success. Now with all that laid out on the table let us move on to what are some of the current craft beer trends.

bhughes' Green Flash IPA clone
The one trend that is riding the wave of popularity among breweries is the idea of sessionable beers. Session beers typically have an ABV range of around 3.5-5% and are designed to be very drinkable and refreshing while still maintaining the big flavors that the craft beer public has come to know and love. Since IPA's are an enormously popular style most breweries are tending to focus on session IPA's. Some notable examples are Founders Brewing's All Day IPA and Stone Brewing's enormously popular Go To IPA. Both of these beers are great examples of what a session IPA should be, massively hoppy but still extremely drinkable. So now that a session IPA has become pretty much common place amongst breweries the trend would have to adopt or die and we are already starting to see a shift in the session beer label. A few breweries have started to brew up sessionable stouts, most noticeably is Stone Brewing's recently released Coffee Milk Stout coming in at 4.2%. There has also been a shift to the idea of barrel aging session beers.
New Holland brewing recently released a barrel aged pale ale called Carhartt Woodsman, coming in at 4.4% this beer completely bucks the idea that a barrel aged beer must be some big imperial based brew. Since session beers are so light in the malt bill a barrel has the opportunity to import big flavors in to these session beers. Now sure the ABV may be bumped up slightly but the flavors are second to none. At the end of the day session beers are here to stay, they are easy to produce but offer up the flavors and complexity that some of the bigger beers they compete with do.

azscoob's Reaper's Mild Session Beer
At the end of the day trends are just that, trends. Craft beer is no exception to the rule. What really counts is how the craft beer industry can take these trends and adopt them so that the craft beer public embraces them and makes them more than just the proverbial flicker in the flame. Will it be the session beer, will it be a resurrected style or will it be a new type of barrel aged beer that dominates the market? We will only know once the beer hits the market. But with all of that said I wholeheartedly suggest that not only should you ignore the current trends and hype behind beers but embrace your local craft breweries and explore all the local flavors have to offer. Cheers and remember, "life is to short..drink amazing beers"!
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Chris Steltz is the latest writer to join the HomeBrewTalk writing team. Heading up BeerGeekNation.com, please be sure to visit Chris' site and show him our support!

 
I found it interesting that I, for the most part, brewed more sessionable ales than anything above 6%. Then they became the next big thing. I think extinct or rare styles may be next as the flavors they're working with now inevitably lean that way.
 
Hey nice article. Whilst I live in the UK I do love American beers and usually spend my time in craft beer bars when I'm over there. Past couple of times I was there the bars didn't seem to have much under 5% or so, but I prefer my ales stronger.
What would be good is to see data of different beer styles and their popularity, I think Google trends might open up some information on what people are looking for online. Maybe getting in touch with a few craft beer bars to see what they're planning to get in the near future.
 
Hey nice article. Whilst I live in the UK I do love American beers and usually spend my time in craft beer bars when I'm over there. Past couple of times I was there the bars didn't seem to have much under 5% or so, but I prefer my ales stronger.
What would be good is to see data of different beer styles and their popularity, I think Google trends might open up some information on what people are looking for online. Maybe getting in touch with a few craft beer bars to see what they're planning to get in the near future.
 
I generally prefer session beers, even when I'm not in session! It's good to see lower alcohol beers growing in popularity. I have to admit I was a little tired of seeing the word "Imperial" attached to so many things.
 
Since my wife doesn't like beer, and since I brew five gallons every other week, everything I brew has to either be given to friends or consumed by me, which means I need to drink more than one a night in order to free up bottles for whatever is currently fermenting. If I wasn't a session beer brewer I'd probably be in rehab by now...
 
Yes, sessionable beers are on the rise for sure. As are some revivals on extinct or recently unfashionable historic styles from America, Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, etc. Don't forget the upstart styles from Australia and New Zealand with their burgeoning hop trends. No word on wilds or sours?
While you'll see more variation in strengths, I think the next real trend will be sour or funky beers, in my own lowly opinion.
 
I'm hedging my bets on a revival of West Country / Devon White Ale and Mum. Oh, and also pale and amber milds.
 
I gotta say I'm not a session beer brewer. I like beer. I like the flavor and aroma. But I also like the light buzz from the alcohol. I don't want to have to drink 6 beers. My bladder isn't that big. Give me a nice 12% Belgium and I'm happy as a clam.
Next big thing? I'm thinking some of the older styles/extinct styles of beer/ale ... like the Belgiums or Saison because there is so much you can do there and so much complexity. Course - for the casual homebrewer the 6-month aging for these might be too much.
 
Same here. Nice article, and would have expected the mention of the sour trend - but is this something more among home brewers than the general drinking public? Hard to believe the average person is going to get too excited about some of the funkier beer styles.
 
Great article. I have wanted to brew more session styles, other than Stouts I have done higher ABV brews for the most part. A barrel aged session beer is intriguing. Great inspiration!
 
+1 on the sours. I have actually yet to try one and the idea of brewing one is intimidating. But I'll get around to it. And Gose beers...also getting noticed. I hear a lot of people criticizing "seasons" in brewing...especially regarding stouts, but you can count on Fall bringing on the pumpkin ales and porters and Winter being big on stouts. My opinion is that innovative yeast strains are picking up steam and will be a big trend over the next couple of years.
 
Right now I have a dry stout at 4%, a mild at 4% and a pale ale at 5% on tap - and my pale ale is around 60 IBU - so I guess I am riding the top of this trend....
Most of what I make is 5.5-7.5% and I am refining my house pale ale, which will be a somewhat session beer, but unbalanced towards hoppy.
 
Sessionable is reasonable, as drunk is usually the opposite!
FWIW, read the last sentence in the first paragraph, above the Russian River glass. If there is an excess of craft beer then I suspect retail pricing should start reflecting it...
 
6 of the last 10 beers I brewed were 5.5% ABV or lower. I brew sours and have gotten back into ciders. I think that the trends are heading back in the area of the older European styles, like Farmhouse ales and the Czech beers of a hundred years ago. There will still be those big Imperial brews and the heavier dark beers during the Winter, but next spring we should see where the trends are going. IMHO, as long as it tastes good, who cares what the ABV is?
 
I also was thinking sour beers would be the next trend, but maybe I am wrong, it might have to deal with the brewing process. Since sour beers are usually aged for at least 6 months to a year, it might be hard to get your supply up to meet a large demand. So the brewers have to see if there is a demand for the sour beers in the first place before they start making them and then begin the process which could take awhile. Might explain why so few do it. I could be wrong though.
Also had a great Gose beer from Grimm Brothers in Loveland, CO the other day.
 
I've been a fan and subscriber of BeerGeekNation for several years now and am happy to see Chris writing here now.
Personally, while I do like session beers on an every-day basis, I have never been completely "WOW'ed" by anything under 8%. I usually miss 'subtle'. I would rather my taste buds explode with a bold Quad, RIS or IIPA.
 
Well, you do care about ABV at least in the UK if you are driving. You can, roughly, have a pint and a half of bitter, two pints of mild, a pint of export lager or a third of a pint of RIS. I know which one I'd go for if I was driving and catching up with mates.
 
@Yourrealdad Sours are a big part of my brewing, my sours take a minimum of a year or longer depending on the fruit that I use. The time involved keeps most brewers from doing them. The chance that an infection can take over an entire brewery probably keeps breweries from doing them (unless the brewery has space for an entire secondary brewhouse and storage facility).
 
Hah, I was half joking about Mum making a comeback but I bought a bottle yesterday. The largest national brewery here in Wales just produced a batch of it. Traditional wheat ale flavoured with gruit. Includes pennyroyal but no mention of any risk of miscarriage :-D
 
Great article! And I was pretty excited to see my English mild photo featured as well!
Craft beer trends are getting quite powerful, one style loses favor as another steps in.
I have noted this with Hefeweizens, breweries have overplayed the style and it is almost unsellable in certain markets, though the wit seems to be its replacement.
 
Come to Utah! We've been brewing session beers for the past 25 years due to state regulations only allowing 4% ABV beers on tap. With many of the local breweries winning countless GABF & World Beer Cup medals with these session beers even when they are up against higher ABV competitors. One of our best breweries also won the coveted Mid-Size Brewery Of The Year at the 2010 GABF. While we are allowed to bottle any ABV of beer they do make it quite hard to sell these to the public, making breweries sell to certain distributors who then supply the state run liquor stores only after an extensive approval process. Don't get me wrong I do love my big IPAs and RIS with their punch you in the mouth flavors that is often accompanied by high alcohol I find myself only being able to enjoy one or two, I find as my palate grows so does my thirst for subtle flavors that I can enjoy multiple times in a sitting.
 
Session beers really irritate me. Its like getting half the beer for the same price. I drink craft beer cause i dont want to have to drink a 24 pack to get buzzed. the ONLY time i consider grabbing a session beer is if i was at a beach or lake all day.
 
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