2016 was a fun year for beer. The independent beer market continued to grow. The hop-sanity of the IPA craze hasn’t gone away, but IPAs have branched off from high gravity hop-bombs into more subtle and fruity territories.
Beer is a big market, and we can’t ignore the noise made in 2016 by some of its biggest players. The $107 billion merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller was like watching a Hydra sprout another head. But the continued expansion of the craft market underscores a flaw of Big Beer: giants move slow, and brute force can be undone by ingenuity and imagination. And it doesn’t take much imagination to foresee the craft beer market continuing to lead the future of beer. What does that future look like? Let’s take a leap into the Beer Trends of 2017
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Bitter About Sours?
One of craft beers most interesting additions to the American beer cooler has been the introduction of wild yeast, sour beers, and and their not-so-distant cousin, saisons. While these beer styles have a deep history in Europe, their place on beer menus in U.S. bars had more to do with them being a token curiosity than being in demand. But that has changed
Expect to see more wild yeast finding its way into saisons (also referred to as farmhouse ales). Saisons are refreshing beers, and the addition of wild yeast adds a layer of complexity. Chicago upstart and ubër-green brewery, Whiner Beer Co., has a wonderful new release, Le Tub, a barrel-aged wild saison, which shows great potential for these beers.
Look for more hopped-up versions of sour beers to come in 2017. Homebrewers have long been into dry hopping beers, and expect to see more sour and saison style beers receive the dry hop treatment. Dry-hopping is simply adding hops to the beer later in the fermentation process instead of adding it while the beer is still being cooked. Dry-hopped sours will reverse one of 2016’s biggest trends in beer: Fruited IPAs. Some of the biggest hits of the summer on draft lists and store shelves were Tangerine, Grapefuit, and other citrus-blasted IPAs. A natural reimagining of this style is be the dry-hopped sour.
Gose is a wheat beer style that originated in Germany, it has minimal hop bitterness and gets a tart bite from the lactic acid added during fermentation. There are already a few really wonderful Goses on the craft market, including Anderson Valley’s Gose line, which includes different marks of Blood Orange, Briny Melon, and their non-flavored The Kimmie, The Yink, and The Holy Gose.
Gose also have salt added to the brews to punch up flavor. The combination of creamy wheat, acid, and salt, gives Gose beers a lot of flavors to play off of with added fruits or spices.
Lagers Aren’t Just For You, Bud
One lesson to learn from Big Beer is that Americans (and the world) really love lager-style beers. It’s why the continued growth of lager is being mentioned again this year after we wrote about it as a beer trend to watch in 2016 These lighter styles with lower ABV offer drinkers less investment than high-alcohol IPAs, and sales for these styles grew 33 percent in 2016.
Pilsners Still Growing
Look for pilsners to continue to grow in popularity. The German-style lager has a more pronounced hop-character than American lagers, and that can act as bridge between craft IPA drinkers and lighter beers. With the popularity of lagers, it’s hard to argue against having one on draft. And the continued excellence of craft-made lagers will ensure their tap handles continue to be pulled. Just check out this list of Beer Advocate’s Top 20 Pilsners, and you’re sure to see some familiar names.
Mexico Made in America
Mexican style lagers are also beginning to win over craft beer drinkers. The style is cleaner and a bit more crisp than American lagers. They lack lack some of the round, fruit notes of their American counterparts in favor a more bitter flavor. These lagers are great places to add zesty citrus flavors, and the aforementioned citrus IPA market shows that pairing subtle citrus flavors with beer is a big hit for summertime drinking. Look for beers like 21st Amendment’s El Sully to find a place on more menus this year. Mexican-inspired beers also go way beyond just lagers. Chicago’s 5 Rabbit Cerveceria has long been making fantastic beers inspired by Mexican flavors and lore.
Lactose sugar in beer isn’t a new thing. Milk stouts are an olde English tradition that’s carried on to this day by the likes of Mackensons Stout.
In the states, Left Hand Milk Stout is found throughout the country on tap and in bottle. Left Hand’s ingenious twist on the classic Milk stout was to add nitrogen to the beer to make it exceptionally smooth.
Lactose has been finding its way into more brews aside from the stout this year. This might be more of a niche trend, but as Punch wrote in October, there has been a burgeoning new beer “style,” being put out by multiple breweries, the “milkshake IPA.” A creamy addition to the IPA sub-genre, it’s certainly an eye-catch name and one that draws curiosity. Inspired by the cloudy and dense IPA style of the Northeast, lactose-IPAs might not take over the beer world, but they will grow in popularity in 2017.
More Beverage Trends to come
This was the second article to highlight Uncorkd’s Beverage Trend Forecast for 2017. Look for our next segment on cocktail and spirit trends for 2017.