Craft beers have been enjoying quite a renaissance over the past decade, with more than 10,000 craft breweries located worldwide. Although The Brewers Association generally defines craft breweries as "small, independent, and traditional," at the rate that craft brands are replacing the, well, crap ones, it's only a matter of time before the indie label gets an upgrade.
Every year craft brewers introduce flavours ranging from new to nostalgic, often reviving techniques and traditions once considered history. Here are a few of 2016's brew trends that are worth a flirt:
1.Rethink Your IPA
The IPA is inarguably the rockstar of beers, or at the very least that dependable rockstar you know you can always count on. Matched only by lagers in overall beer sales, the IPA lends itself well to reinterpretation, as seen in this season's sweep of SMASH (single-malt single-hop) beers and black IPAs. Although close to a stout, blacker malt IPAs are markedly less bitter, with a hoppier-tasting roast that's ideal for those who prefer the lighter side of dark beers.
2. Local, all the way
Though it's hardly a new sentiment, the push for locally sourced brands and breweries is hotter than ever. Not so much a case of supporting the little man but seeking--and finding--better quality at your doorstep, restaurants and breweries have been frequently collaborating to create noteworthy culinary pairings. Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Brewers Association of Maryland, states that “Farm-to-keg is thriving, and more and more breweries are planting or sourcing local ingredients. From hops to grains to fruits to walnuts, local is in."
3. Throwback to the soda fountain
Here's where nostalgia is making a huge comeback in 2016 brewing trends. "Hard" soda flavoured beers such as Not Your Father's Root Beer (and the less sweet but more potent Mission Brewing Hard Root Beer) got the ball rolling, with the former's Small Town Brewery further producing such flavours as strawberry rhubarb, apple pie and yes, French toast. While this may seem like a self-defeating backtrack in the grown-up world of beer drinking, some brands are having tremendously successful fun with it. For example, Coney Island Brewing Co.'s Hard Orange Cream Soda has a surprisingly subtle cream ale taste with only a hint of orange, making it a good choice for craft enthusiasts who still want to maintain a little dignity.
4. Pucker up
If soda/beer hybrids aren't your thing, you'll be glad to know there are other alternatives in popular development. Craft brewers have been experimenting with and perfecting sour beers, concocted though wild yeasts, lactobacillus (responsible for the overall tart flavour), and spontaneous fermentation. The process is notoriously temperamental, making for mostly one-off batches thus far. Keep an eye out for special flight tastings, or purchasable sampler varieties such as the Petrus Sour Power Sampler (available at Beer Cartel), for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
5. Nitro is in
Nitrogen-infused brewing is all the rage these days, particularly in the United States. (A moment of gratitude for Guinness, leader of nitro stouts.) The use of nitrogen in brewing techniques creates smaller bubbles and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, with a typical nitrogenised beer containing approximately 70 percent nitrogen and 30 percent carbon dioxide. Although few brewers have traditionally taken to the nitro tap, Left Hand Brewing Co is leading the charge with its Milk Stout Nitro, widely considered to be the first successfully bottled nitro brew.
6. Coming up from down under
Due to the high demand for fruitier, more aromatic flavours, hops grown in the Southern Hemisphere are putting Australia and New Zealand on the craft map. The tropical citrus notes of the Galaxy hop set IPAs such as SanTan's MoonJuice apart from their peers, while the lemon-peppery Pacific Jade hops make for a versatile sweet-to-bitter brewing range. If you're looking for the perfect introduction to down under hop brews, try Bridge Road's Single Hop Ella IPA.
7. Aging like a good beer
Wooden barrels have been in use for thousands of years, a few hundred of those dedicated to storing spirits and beer. Only recently did it dawn on modern brewers that one frequently compliments the other, and so stainless metal casks were replaced with the wooden barrels of yore. Some are taking it a step further by aging beer in distillery barrels containing the essence of spirits stored prior, with bourbon-barrel beer ranking high in demand. The distinct taste isn't for everyone, but if the strong, dark, and/or sour beers mentioned above appeal to you then this is one trend definitely worth checking out.
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