2016 was a year of diversification for craft beer. Big Beer continued its takeover, by diversifying its portfolio with smaller regional craft breweries. Core brands and flagship beer sales being used to fund experimental projects is no longer the norm. Mature beer brand sales are slowing, with greater share going towards the nano brewhouses and increasing variety. A revived beer style, the American Sour, is rapidly expanding. Finally, a glutton of new breweries threatens to either expand or undermine the craft beer market as a whole. While these new breweries expose more people to craft beer and increased variety, those that do so with poor quality product may turn these newer drinkers off.
We think that while many of these trends will continue into 2017, there are still other areas of innovation. Craft beer is not only about quality product, but about producing unique flavors and profiles, things that are cutting edge and new. In this vein, here are some of the interesting places we think craft beer will go in 2017.
1. Utilization of ultra-local ingredients
This is an expansion of the “new-to-you” trend we saw last year. As breweries keep innovating to produce the next combination of flavors/styles one big way to set themselves apart is to use an exclusive ingredient, something that can only be found in their region or even just in their own backyard.
2. Incorporation of harder to use fruit/vegetable combinations
All the regional breweries are experimenting with fruit-beer combinations. While the most popular include citrus fruits into IPAs, breweries are beginning to branch out. Some of the trends we’re looking forward to include additions of fruits/vegetables with softer flavor profiles (like carrots) or those with harder to use characteristics (like oil-rich coconut).
3. Addition of fruit to other beer styles
We predict that fruit won’t just be relegated to IPAs, but will see full inclusion within the beer spectrum. Some examples already available include stouts, like the cranberry stout we poured last month, or the Juniper saison coming out this year from Left Hand brewing.
4. Revival of historic beer styles
As breweries search for something new to produce, a few will begin looking back to the old. Previously forgotten/neglected styles (like last year’s revival of gose) will help bring novelty to their lineups. While these styles will likely be tweaked to form their American counterpart, some long-dead styles to watch out for include: Gruit, Kriek, and Burton Ale.
5. Expansion of the NorthEast IPA
This year the NorthEast IPA truly blossomed. Roided-up hop profiles gave way to floral, fruity, and downright juicy options. We’ll see this trend continue into next year as this style spreads across the rest of the country and gets picked up by the mainstream west coast breweries. While we think there’s still room for expansion and refinement of this style, as some brewers are experimenting with making more turbid versions, it should become a solid offering this year.
We plan on using these insights and trends to shape some of our own brews during the coming year. How do you think we did? What other trends are you observing? Leave a comment below and let us know.