Words & Photo - Matthew Curtis
I thought I’d take a quick break from writing the article I’m supposed to be working on to dip into this months Session, hosted by Csaba Babak of Beer Means Business. The topic is “Beer Futures” and Csaba has asked us to put together a piece based around what the future holds for the beer industry.
I’m not going to dip into detailed market trends or sales or anything deep here. However, beer-wise there’s three things that immediately stick out in my mind, which I think we’ll see more of in the future. This particular train of thought is UK specific, but could easily be applied to other markets where craft beer is prevalent.
1. IPA Everywhere
By IPA I refer to all modern, hop forward IPA and Pale Ales but for the sake of a sub-heading it’s easier to put them under one umbrella. This trend is already happening in a lot of pubs and bars, so this particular movement is one I see happening now as opposed to in the future.
It will become essential for every bar to a have a modern, hop-forward offering on keg as a permanent fixture. In fact I’d go so far as to say it already is. Beer geeks are becoming ever more obsessive about new trends within IPA and pale ale circles, such as hazy, New England IPA and fruit-infused pales to more outlandish iterations such as sour or "tart" IPA. Some of these trends will remain fixtures that exist only in the geek bubble. However something like fruit-infused IPA could become as popular as alcopop fruit “ciders”, just look at the success of beers such as Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin in the US.
Hop forward and potently aromatic beer is here to stay, especially as we're producing more aroma hops than ever before. But many of these styles, such as the ultra hazy IPA that is very much the beer of the day, won't penetrate the inner circles of geekdom, which is how IPA stays cool.
2. Mixed Fermentation Beer Getting the Respect it Deserves
I’m starting to lose track of the amount of UK brewers that now have barrel projects or are taking delivery of foudres, and that’s great. There’s space in the UK beer market for elegant, mixed fermentation beer presented in 750ml bottles to take centre stage. (I use the term "mixed fermentation" because "sour" as a catchall term does not do the style justice.) If we want to belly up to the wine market in restaurants for example, then we need to seriously raise our game and to my mind this is how we achieve this.
Intense beers such as barrel aged imperial stouts and barley wines will lose favour as more and more people begin to search for elegance and nuance in beer. As my own palate progresses I get far more joy from exploring subtle layers in a geuze or blended saison than I do from being sensually assaulted by a 14% bourbon barrel aged stout. I'm aware a lot of this is personal preference, but I see more and more people following suit as time progresses.
3. Really Fucking Good Lager
I must’ve visited approximately 50 breweries in the UK this year alone. The one key similarity between all of them is that they’re expanding rapidly. With this expansion comes extra tank space, and with extra tank space comes lager.
Despite our love for beers myriad array of styles within beer geek circles, lager will always remain the UK’s most popular style, because it’s the most accessible. We’re already seeing a surge in the quality of great UK lagers and pilsners and I think this trend will continue to the point where drinkers demand better. The effect of this is that great lager becomes commonplace, with the focus on small and local that's so often applied to ale also applied here. Regular availability of fresh, locally produced lager would certainly get my money.