Five Craft Beer Trends to Keep an Eye On

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Brewing might seem like an age-old topic, but it’s experiencing a lot of change this decade. In 2016, more breweries are opening, more unique amenities are popping up and different ingredients are being used.

Whether you’re a craft brew connoisseur or a classic beer-lover, you should keep your eye on a few of the craft beer trends popping up this year. As the experts say: It’s important to compete with innovation. Check out the five hottest craft brewing trends hitting the market, and stay on top of the ever-expanding industry expected to roll out with great new options in 2016.

Trend One: Crowlers, Not Growlers


Okay, growlers are still popular, but the new, re-closable 32-ounce aluminum crowler is taking priority among beer-lovers around the world. The small, single-use aluminum crowler—invented by Oscar Blues Brewing Co.—has expanded far beyond Colorado to bring brewery-goers the portable tastes they love.

Unlike glass growlers, customers needn’t purchase the container itself. Crowler-filling machines, when available, do all the work. Consider the crowler to be today’s “can on demand,” which is filled, right before your eyes, with your house-favorite brew. Crowlers have become so popular, in fact, that big-time brewers like St. Boniface Craft Brewing Co. have started prioritizing them.

Trend Two: Sours are the New IPAs


Sours have historically had lift-off difficulty. In 2016, however, they’re up front and center. Among the United State’s top leading flavors, “spicy” and “pumpkin-flavored,” sour releases like grapefruit, lemon, raspberry and lime are turning drinkers’ heads.

That isn’t to say IPAs aren’t still in fashion, but sour wheat beers—even unflavored—are gaining traction among the nation’s leading favorites. Now, breweries are hosting wide sour collections, diving into the middle ground of the wheat-to-sour-wheat spectrum. If that isn’t enough, old-time favorites like mango, watermelon and peach are getting sour-wheat remixes. Keep an eye out for them.

Trend Three: Bourbon-Aged Beer


Millennials are crazy about bourbon, and they’re quickly adopting Scotch and rye. Whether you’re a cocktail-lover or brew-sipper, you’ll likely experience the resurgence of bourbon-aged barrel beer. It’s been around for a while, but its popularity has been on and off. Now, breweries are prioritizing the delectable mix, giving drinkers a slew of options when choosing the barrel-brewed route. In some areas, the opposite is popular, too. Beer-barrel bourbon is making its debut, and both whisky and brew drinkers are loving it.

In some ways, Sazerac’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky is responsible. The whisky is innovative, and it’s altered the alcohol industry in an incredibly way. The spirit’s sales inflated by 65 percent last year, landing almost four million cases sold. Flavored whisky has caused consumers to experiment, and it’s created a spectrum of bourbon beer lovers ready to step outside their comfort zones.

Trend Four: Variety, Variety and More Variety


If you haven’t noticed, craft brewing is getting weird. That doesn’t suggest, however, a necessarily bad weirdness. Today, 33 percent of craft brew drinkers state they’d purchase more beer if more variety were offered. Differentiation is in, and the once-niche world of craft beer is expanding by adding much-needed market value.

In most markets, variety is an indication of brewery success. Craft lovers may be simple folk, but they’re certainly ready to expand from an age-old low-priced market segment into the higher tiers of fine booze. In 2016, differentiation isn’t easy to pin down. In fact, subdivisions of already diverse brews are existing. In general, local breweries have become “testing grounds” for emergent flavor ideas—and for trends, too.

Trend Five: Nitro Beer


If you haven’t heard, craft beers are being carbonated via nitrogen instead of CO2. Don’t worry, because your carbon-dioxide-preserved beer is still available. You should, however, get your hands on a nitro, which is a creamy beer yielding a thick, white top. Usually falling into the stout category, nitro beer is quickly expanding across the board—hitting new textures and flavor profiles.

Of the new nitro beer selections, the Guinness nitro is easily a favorite. Poured directly upside down, the Guinness nitro needs a frothy finish to expel its finer taste. While a nitro beer may seem over the top for some, or even overly complicated, its taste more than makes up for the awkward pouring method.

Craft brewing isn’t only expanding in flavor profile, and it’s certainly come a long way. Today’s craft beer market is incredibly competitive, and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Stay on guard, because the beer world’s newest options might pass you up—keen on serving from local breweries.

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