Craft Brewing's Biggest Trends in 2016

As the seasons change, so do our beer preferences. As the weather gets warmer, many people look for lighter beers to enjoy at festivals, BBQs, and by the pool. As we move into fall and winter, beer-enthusiasts will look to the heavier, maltier, stouts and porters. Although we enjoy these same types of beers every year, we still enjoy the creativity that craft-breweries bring to their seasonal line-ups.

From this year’s crowlers to craft ciders, there are a huge variety of new trends hitting the craft brew scene in 2016. Here are four of the biggest movements in craft brewing that will continue to grow this year.

1. Farm-to-Keg

The farm-to-table movement has spread to the beer industry, and this trend is becoming particularly popular in the United States. Consumers are placing more emphasis on the quality and sourcing of their ingredients, and they are increasingly interested in supporting local economies. This has a few different implications.

In the U.S., many states recently passed laws that allow breweries to farm, brew, and serve beer on the same land, much like traditional wineries. One example is the Dirt Farm Brewing Company in Bluemont, Virginia. This brewing company sits on a 400-acre family farm.

In the same vein, many companies are placing more emphasis on the source of their ingredients, even if they do not grow the products themselves. Terrapin Brewing Company in Athens, Georgia has a line of single-origin coffee stouts. While the coffees come from various countries, the location and production of the coffees is important to many consumers. Terrapin has even released a Hefeweizen made with pollen, a spin on the massive amounts of oak pollen in Georgia.

The emphasis on farm-to-keg goes hand in hand with a desire to support local breweries. Small, local micro-breweries will continue to gain popularity and importance. Events hosted by these local breweries are particularly popular.

2. Nitro-beers

Nitrogen-brewed beers are typically associated with old Ireland drafts, although Guinness just released their nitro-IPA last year.

Nitro refers to the gas used in the beer’s carbonation process. Traditionally, beers are carbonated using carbon dioxide. Nitros are generally made using 70 percent nitrogen and 30 percent carbon dioxide. The nitrogen gives the beer a thicker feel, and they tend to taste better in malt-heavy beers such as porters and stouts.

Nitrogen typically does not fit as well with beers like IPAs and lagers. Sam Adams, however, has released a nitro white ale and a nitro IPA. Left Hand Brewing Company in Colorado recently bottled a nitro Milk Stout that they started making about ten years ago.

3. Sweet Ales

Particularly in the warmer months of this year, the sweeter-than-traditional ales are gaining popularity. These ales tend to have more pronounced fruit flavours, and the fruits they are brewed with venture beyond the typical grapefruit and pumpkin. Ales with intense flavours of maple syrup, banana, and various berries are increasingly common.

Torched Hop Brewing Company released their Chief McIntosh, a Scottish ale with caramel and toffee flavours. The Crafty Pint’s Eagle Bay Two Kooks IPA carries hints of “stone fruit and tropical aromatics”.

4. Soda-flavoured brews

Like the sweet flavours of the ales, many brewing companies are producing soda-flavoured beers. Not Your Father’s Root Beer, from Small Town Brewery, has soared in popularity since its release last year. Many other companies, including MillerCoors, have noticed this trend and are brewing Orange Cream and Ginger Ale flavoured beers. You can find other ginger beers at Beer Cartel.

Small Town Brewery has even diverged from soda-flavours and created Not Your Mom’s Apple Pie, Not Your Mom’s French Toast, and Not Your Mom’s Strawberry Rhubarb beers. These flavours are reminiscent of the southern United States’ moonshine flavours.

The soda-flavoured beers are perhaps the most contentious of all of the 2016 craft beer trends. Some insist that they are not beers; some wish the trend would simply go away; and some who have not traditionally liked beer are now visiting breweries.

These beer trends of 2016 have already gained tremendous momentum since the start of the year. As the seasons continue to change, we will see new specials released throughout the rest of the year. The next time you attend a beer festival or visit your local distillery, check out some of these new trends.

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