Tuesday 3 February 2009

The Next Big Thing Will Be...

In recent years the US craft beer movement has super-sized beer all round. Beer is brewed to extremes of strength and bitterness. There has been a lot of barrel aging, mainly oak barrels which previously held whisky or bourbon. ‘Old’ styles have been brought into the 21st century – imperial stouts, new-skool IPAs, porters. Bottled beer choice has got wider, while limited edition cask beer in brewpubs achieves major notoriety. Beer release dates are talked about as if they are the opening day of the summer’s most anticipated blockbuster movie. Certain beers are creating legends of themselves. But what I’m wondering is what is next. Here’s a few possibilities…

Is sour the next big thing? Beer forums seem to be predicting that sour is the new bitter. I don’t know about this one, and I’m not convinced by wild beers and lambics yet (I haven’t had one which has made me fall in love with it). I haven’t quite acquired the taste for tart, dry, acetic, sour beers. They could be the next (logical?) step but I don’t see them becoming mainstream, at least not in the UK.

There’s bound to be more barrel aging. Maybe with the use of different barrels like brandy, cherry brandy, calvados, wine and madeira explored further. Aging styles other than imperial stout could soon take off too. Or perhaps there will be blends from different casks - the same beer but half of it aged in bourbon and the other half aged in cherry brandy - then mixed together.

On the topic of blending, maybe the next craze will be the pimping of the black and tan. IPAs with stouts; double IPAs with imperial stout. Maybe kriek and porter; lager and dark lager; two different vintages of the same beer; lager and bitter (?!). I made a snakebite at a beer festival once with an 8% cider and an 8% ale – I can’t honestly remember what it was like (it was the last beer of the night and seemed like a good idea!). Maybe this kind of thing is best left to personal experimentation.

And what about new styles of beer? Black IPAs, imperial lagers (is such a thing even possible?!), 10% ABV bitters, malty-sweet wild beer, vegetable beers, savoury beers.

Belgian-style beer is cool in the US, so maybe we will see more British brewers copying Belgian styles? Or US brewers Americanizing Belgian beers, creating bigger versions of the styles (turning the triple up to a quintuple or sextuple?!).

I think the market for ‘special’ beers will increase as will the production of ‘vintage’ beers. This’ll probably mean more one-off brews, better bottle conditioning for super longevity and more expensive single bottles. Beer as commodity.

On the reverse of the vintages, what about ultra-fresh beers designed to be drunk within a few days or weeks out of the fermentation tank. Especially designed to grip hold of that fresh hop aroma and flavour.

One trend I’d like to see is more single hop beers showcasing the unique qualities of just one hop variety, perhaps using the same base beer with each brew having a different hop added to it.

Super-sessionable beers, like milds and golden ales, to be drunk in the pub.

Will cans be the new bottles?

What about the use of ‘active’ ingredients? Look at BrewDog’s Speedball. Or the use of things such as ginseng, taurine, omega-3, vitamins and minerals. Just the thing for those searching for something more nutritious or more ‘out-there’.

And beer will hopefully become more global with more access to beers from all over the world. This will be helped by collaborations between brewers from different countries.

Is this what the next year-or-so has in store? What do you think?


  1. Tough to predict, but I think there will be a lot more experimentation to come, spearheaded by the Yanks and in Britain by innovators like BrewDog, Thornbridge and Innis & Gunn.

    I love barrel-aging and hope to see lots more of it. I can envisage the Belgian-style craze emerging too and more pubs daring to stock dark milds, porters and stouts. And in general, the popularity of cask ale should hopefully continue to rise.

  2. I'm excited to see all the next moves of Thornbridge and BrewDog, they are leading the beer revolution over here.

    Seeing more quality stouts - dark beers in general - in pubs would be brilliant. And hopefully the popularity of cask ale will rise, especially if it means locally produced beers served in nearby pubs.

  3. I totally agree that BrewDog have some really exciting ideas for more 'modern' beers, Innis and Gunn too.

    I think, like the explosion seen in flavoured wood finishes in whisky over the last few years, maturing beer this way will certainly start to become much more popular. There are some interesting flavour combinations there to be had I think!

    With a bit of an ear to the ground with a few local landlords, more and more freehouses seem to be thinking of brewing their own, local beers.

    Bring it on I say! The future looks interesting!

  4. Totally Pete, I agree - if pubs can start brewing their own beers (if they are good enough) or get brewers to make them for them, then that's a great thing. Local beer, local pubs, local food - that's the immediate future for the british pub

  5. Great to meet you tonight Mark. Thanks for joining our motley crew. Hope you enjoyed the night nearly as much as we did & hope you made your train! St Petersburg was (again) the winner for me with Kipling a close second. Hope to catch up again soon.

  6. Awesome to meet you guys, I had a great night. St Pete was the star but for me Handel came a close second, especially with the blue cheese! See you soon

  7. Lots of good points here. There are lots of overlapping trends.
    I think there is a market for more canned craft beers. There are some splendid US examples.

    There will be more brewpubs, but it will depend on tax systems to stimulate them. There are thriving brewpub scenes in cities like Vienna and Berlin now, and I think this will spread.

    A smaller trend will be beer brewed from local ingredients, with barley (and perhaps hops) from farms in the neighbourhood.