Trends come and go, but opinions (and hopefully, opinionated brewers) will always be here. This is especially true in an industry whose creators are continuously met with new demands, and whose most loyal devotees are eager to share their thoughts at every turn, from Untappd to the actual taproom.
VinePair asked 14 brewery professionals across the country what they see in beer’s future. Here are the trends to look out for in the year ahead, from hopeful pale ale predictions to thoughtful seltzer speculations, and yes, a facetious rant or two.
“I would need a crystal ball to forecast what the beer drinker might want to imbibe upon next! I hope West Coast IPAs come back to the forefront.” — Dennis O’Harrow, Head Brewer, Lone Tree Brewing Co., Lone Tree, CO
“Light [and] low-ABV [beer].” — Paul Friedheim, Lead Brewer, Thirsty Monk, Asheville, NC
“IPA, just like it has been for the past 15-plus years.” — Marks Lanham, Head Brewer, Comrade Brewing, Denver, CO
“Seltzer, if that is a fair [answer to] the question. Legally, it’s called beer even though no grain is harmed in the making of a seltzer. And we’re seeing all the big craft and macro groups now pushing hard into this space. Almost every small brewery I know of, including us, now produces a seltzer, and ours sells like crazy. Probably the top-selling tap we have in our Northglenn (north Denver) location.” — Chris Labbe, Owner, Periodic Brewing, Northglenn, CO
“Milkshake IPAs and hard seltzers will be combined to create the milkshake hard seltzer which will sweep the nation, and the subsequent high demand for lactose will affect the dairy market, driving up the price of milk. Also, the haze craze will spread outside the beer world inspiring hazy Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay which will be huge in the canned wine segment.” — Aaron Reilly, Head Brewer, Basecamp Brewpub, Devils Backbone Brewing, Roseland, VA
“At some point, maybe not next year, folks will start moving back towards more traditional IPAs rather than be sooo heavy on the haze. Not to say that the haze craze is going away, but that folks will ‘rediscover’ what they loved about other IPAs. That and clean, crushable beers.” — Jordan Fink, Head Brewer and Co-Owner at Woods Boss Brewing, Denver, CO
“As IPAs have continued to grow and change, a new interpretation of pale ale — lighter in color, less bitter, and far more aromatic than pale ales of yesteryear — is ready to shine. Ranging in strength from 4.5 to 5.5 percent ABV, and showcasing flavor profiles from tropical to floral.” — Chris Rockwood, Head Brewer, Magic Hat, Burlington, VT
“I’d love to see a return to great hoppy pale [ales] along with IPA’s popularity. It looks like the hard seltzer movement will swell next year, though I think in the long run folks will return to the fuller flavor of beer. (I’m so old I was alive during the wine cooler phase. This reminds me a lot of that.) In terms of breweries… I’m hoping to see lots of new small breweries cropping up in regions that are still relative deserts in terms of local available options, though fewer and fewer of these remain in the U.S., huzzah!” — Carol Cochran, Co-owner and Co-founder, Horse & Dragon Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO
“If I knew the answer to that question, I would be brewing it like crazy right now. Hard seltzers came out of nowhere this year, but I doubt they are here to stay. I still believe that the classic styles will make a resurgence. I think a hybrid of the old school West Coast IPA with new-school fruity citrus hops will be a leader in the pack.” — Chris Juergen, Head Brewer, Karbach Brewing, Houston, TX
“More lower-ABV beers getting attention from the market. I wouldn’t say IPA fatigue, but maybe just more IPA alternatives getting love from the average consumer.” — Anna Selver-Kassell, VP Hospitality, Threes Brewing, Brooklyn, NY
“Smoked beers. Go ahead and laugh. There’s a reason they’re still around after thousands of years!” — Colin Ferguson, Sales Manager, Live Oak Brewing Co., Del Valle, TX
“Low-cal beers are a rapidly growing trend in craft brewing, and I also expect that we’ll continue to see growth in seasonable, approachable fruit sours. I’m also really curious to see where IPAs go next, and I think that there is a lot of potential in the brut [IPA] subcategory.” — Carl Heinz, Brewmaster, Breckenridge Brewery, Breckenridge, CO
“If I had to guess, it’s going to be lagers and light beers. Anything sessionable and low alcohol, with a communal spirit that you can sit around with friends and drink several without too much impairment. The industry has been moving away from heavy-hopped IPAs and big beers for some time now. The seltzer craze is feeding this shift as well. And speaking of seltzer, of course that will continue to be a trend, at least for a little while.” — Fred Searles, Head Brewer, Bonfire Brewing, Eagle, CO