Heady Times For Craft Beer

image via New Brew Thursday

It’s a great time to be a beer lover.

We have more beer styles and brands to choose from than every before. More and more often they are premium, full-flavored microbrews based on traditional European processes. There are now so many small, independent artisan brewers in the U.S. (nearly 1,600 at last count) that most Americans live within 10 miles of at least one specialty producer.

Even as the industry comes of age, craft brewers are still acting like frisky teenagers. There is plenty of freshness and innovation as they experiment with ingredients and techniques, and dabble with new forms of marketing. Here are some of the trends to look for:

Nanobrewing— Even smaller scale than a microbrewer, a nanobrewer can be a home or hobby-brewer who distributes a limited production within a select circle of customers; or it can be a restaurant or bar that offers house-brewed beer but is not licensed as a brewpub.

Hops with provenance— The origin and type of hops used impacts bitterness, flavor, and aroma of beer in much the same way that grape varietals and growing regions define wine. Expect to see greater emphasis on regional and estate-grown hops.

X Beer— These are style-defying beers that have an extreme attribute. It’s commonly associated with brews that rival the alcohol content of spirits (we’ve seen as high as 80 proof) but it can also be a beer with an extreme taste: dense and sweet from chocolate or peanut butter; tongue-searing hoppiness; or beer so tart you shudder with each sip.

Beer in cans— Yes, beer in a can can taste great. Anyway, you probably will just tip it into a glass. As craft brewers look to ship outside of their regions and even outside of the country, the space, weight, and storage of cans makes economic sense.

Creative naming— Buffalo Bill’s Alimony Ale, Missoula Moose Drool, Old Leghumper Porter; distinctive beer names have been a hallmark of the new generation of craft brewers, and the names will keep coming. Irreverently humorous, sometimes downright bizarre, creative names are an effective marketing tool that helps differentiate brewers and bottles.

Hybrid Styles— The last wave of craft brewers looked to the traditional European methods and styles to brew technically correct, accurate versions of traditional beers. Today we find more craft brewers willing to break with tradition, often collaborating with other breweries to produce experimental hybrids. We’re seeing beer that has been aged in wine barrels or had whiskey added. Fruit flavors are pushed to the front along with less traditional additions like tea leaves, lavender, chilies, and Nutella.

Some work, others don’t, but collectively, the new style of craft brewing is expanding the craft of the brewers while it broadens the palates of beer lovers.

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6 Responses to Heady Times For Craft Beer

  1. We’re headed to a beer-paired fancy farm dinner Saturday. It is not the first beer-paired dinner we have done and just love it! It is a great time to love beer!

  2. Janice says:

    Aren’t you lucky! I have known a few home brewers but they tend to brew for very specialized tastes.

  3. My friend does that nanobrewing (never knew it was called that) and the beer is super tasty! Great post!

  4. I love beer. Being French I’m supposed to be more into wine, but I’ll take a good cold mug of beer any day. In fact….

  5. Janice says:

    I drink wine more often than beer, but this is definitely the time of year for the summery brews that I prefer.

  6. I drink a glass of wine or a beer just about every evening when I cook. Was very happy to read this post!

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