Back to basics\r\nThere was a time when craft beer seemed to be all about the wildest, weirdest or craziest brews you could make or find. Today, demand has grown for beers that some might call boring, yet others consider stylish, well-balanced and high-quality. Finding a stable of pale ales, dry stouts, pilsners, brown ales and others that are both true to style and exceptional in quality is no small task. While change is good, and variety may be the spice of life, every now and then, you just want to relax with a well-made classic (or three).\r\nIPA won\u2019t go away.\u2009.\u2009.but it speaks softer\r\nWhile they\u2019ve largely mellowed from the days of palate-assaulting bitterness, IPAs are still red-hot. According to the Brewers Association, IPAs were the most popular beer style produced in 2016, accounting for 25.4 percent of sales, and had the largest growth rate (22.6 percent). The experimentation and variety within the American IPA subcategory continues, while session offerings showed fast sales growth. These statistics suggest that consumers are seeking IPAs with low to moderate alcohol levels, supported by growth in English, white and fruited styles.\r\nMalts are the new hops\r\nWe\u2019ve seen much focus placed on hops: new varieties, types prominently listed on product labels, dry vs. wet, whole vs. powder and more. But, like oak\u2019s influence in wine, hops are used in varying techniques and degrees. Perhaps even more crucial to beer production are the malts. Malts, along with water, yeast and hops, form the foundation of a beer, lending color, flavor, protein (for head retention), dextrins (for mouthfeel) and maltose (fermentable sugars). Watch for brewers that recognize the potential of specialty malts, like heirloom wheat and rye varieties, ancient grains and barley strains.\r\n\r\n\r\nCheers to your own beer!\r\nHomebrewing continues to grow in popularity, and if you haven\u2019t made the jump yet, it\u2019s easier than ever before. Similar to a pod-based coffee maker, PicoBrew\u2019s new Model C offers convenience, delicious results and is ideal for beginners. The pods, called PicoPaks, are available from respected brewers like Rogue, Coronado, Oakshire and Tallgrass. Ready to be bold? The PicoBrew Freestyle tool lets you customize your own beer recipes.\r\nFruity pleasures\r\nFruit beers have endured a so-so reputation in the past, but consumers have increasingly moved beyond such misgivings. In terms of style, fruit beers can be just about anything: a lager, pale ale, or bolder styles like stout, sour ale or IPA. The best examples strike a balance between the base beer\u2019s profile and natural fruit flavors, either in dried, peel, pur\u00e9e or whole form (like berries). Check out breweries that work with local fruit, like New Glarus\u2019s Wisconsin Belgian Red, Bruery Terreux\u2019s Pommereux or Captain Lawrence\u2019s Hudson Valley Harvest Sour lineup.\r\nA question of loyalty\r\nAt the beginning of the current craft-beer boom, a few savvy, fun-loving brewers stood out by creating personality and stories for their brands. That marketing approach resonated with consumers. As these trailblazers and the overall market have grown, such impact has lessened. With so many options to choose, thirsty consumers will often taste across a favorite brand\u2019s portfolio and move on to the next new thing. The result is a decline in brand loyalty. Look for breweries (and brewers) to return to their storytelling roots with emphasis on commitment to local markets, passion for products and devotion to the craft-beer community.