Top Beer Trends of 2014
The craft beer industry continues to thrive, and while we love all of the evolution and innovation, trying to keep track of the latest trends and offerings can get overwhelming. Never fear, Wine Enthusiast is here, with six hot topics that will ensure you’ll stay in the know.
According to the Brewers Association, there are currently about 200 varieties of hops commercially available. That’s a 75-percent increase from a few decades ago—and there are reportedly about 100 new hop varieties in development. Hop farmers and the Hop Research Council certainly have been busy with their flowers and bines. What does that mean for you? Countless new aromas and flavors, as brewers experiment with these innovative varieties. This year, look for selections that attempt to showcase the latest lupulin-laced releases, including Mosaic, Azacca and Equinox.
While craft brewing has boomed in recent years, the artisan beers you love represented only 7.8 percent of all U.S. sales in 2013. Within this drop in the suds bucket, there’s a steady stream of new nanobreweries. These small operations—often started by homebrewers that are toiling for the love of beer—typically produce just one batch at a time and distribute to a limited audience, frequently made up of family, friends and maybe a local bar. Now that’s a neighbor worth getting to know.
With the American mantra of “bigger is better,” it’s no surprise that we’ve been swimming in a sea of bold, high-alcohol, in-your-face flavors and bitterness. Thankfully, nuanced and often easier-drinking styles are making a comeback, especially those borrowed from Europe’s rich history of brewing, like Schwarzbiers, smoked beers and low-hopped ales and lagers. Although some hopheads might revolt, it’s a welcome relief for many consumers seeking complexity, balance and flavor, but who need a break from over-the-top IBUs.
Although sour beers aren’t new, they’ve never been more popular. They sell out at beer events, fans wait for hours to get the latest releases and bars and restaurants load their beverage lists with as many of these tongue-tingling tipples as they can. To make sours, “wild” yeasts or bacteria—like Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus—are added during fermentation. They leave a distinct imprint, often in sour notes along with barnyard, bandage, animal or earthy tones. Many brewers also add fruit, augmenting the acidic, vinous characteristics of these brews. Sounds funky, but the best bottles boast personality and complexity deserving of your attention.
No, it’s not the bigger, better deal—but bigger, better distribution. There has never been more supply or demand for craft beer. But as you likely have experienced, scoring small artisan brews isn’t always easy. While still a work in progress, dedicated craft-beer distributors are gaining recognition and shelf space, as states begin to amend their big-brand-centric distribution laws to remedy archaic, preventive regulations. Some even allow small-production craft brewers to self-distribute. In short, while they’ve already improved, your beer choices are poised to get even better.
With craft breweries in every state and, on average, most Americans living within 10 miles of a brewery or brewpub, there’s never been a better time to embrace your local craft beer scene or become a beer locavore. While some folks might be aware of nearby beer-tasting opportunities, others might not realize the delicious, frothy world that’s right in their own backyards. Ask about local breweries the next time you visit your favorite pub or retailer, and check out the Web site of your state’s craft brewers guild for events and tasting information.
- 2New Hop Stars
- 4Old Style, New Times
- 5Sour Power
- 6The BBD
- 7The Locabrew