I was looking back through some old posts recently when I ran across one from a touch more than a year ago called "What's Trending in Beer?" I did not remember writing it until browsing the text, which tells me it's one I dreamed up because I needed to get something out on the blog. I like to keep my two readers entertained, so I try to keep a regular supply of words popping up.*
Whether I intended it or not, it's an interesting exercise to look out across the vast plain of craft beerdom and consider the trends over the past year. Who knew I was starting something that could become a yearly feature?
To recap, since I'm guessing few of you clicked on the link above, in reviewing the end of 2010 and most of 2011, it seemed Belgian yeast had taken off in a big way, showing up in practically any kind of beer. The year prior had seen an explosion of Black IPAs. Before that, high gravity beers were all the rage and looking back even farther showed barrel aging had become common place.
What's happening with Belgian yeast? I think the trend of using Belgian yeast in just about anything is quieting down. Instead, there seems to be an increasing focus on using Belgian yeast to produce more Belgian style beers, an effort I greatly encourage.
What's trending now? In the Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder,** yin/yang, balancing of the universe vein, white IPAs are becoming more common place. Yet, I wouldn't go so far as to call then a trend worthy of highlighting.
So, in my last year of visiting countless beer aisles, beer bars, breweries and brewfests, not to mention reading far too many articles, blogs and other musing on beer and attending a most excellent conference, here's what I see trending in beer:
1. Putting anything and everything into beer. There are clearly no boundaries in the U.S. craft beer industry. You can put anything into a beer in the United States and get away with it. Jalapenos? Not even unusual anymore. Maple syrup, pomegranates, bacon, chocolate, peanut butter? I've had beers with every one of them. It's what sets the U.S. apart from other countries, particularly European counterparts whose century old traditions continue to have a strangle hold on limited styles. I enjoy it, support it and embrace it. It certainly isn't new to the past year, but it seems we've reached a certain crescendo. Why not experiment? Beer is social, and as long as we understand and enjoy the fact that some experiments are going to work and some aren't, it's all good.
2. False Complexity. Experimentation is one thing. Throwing in 10 malts and 8 hops in an effort to suggest the beer is better is quite another. I'm not arguing such beers aren't necessarily good, or the number of malts and hops isn't important to the flavor of the beer. As I wrote this post I drank a beer with six hop varieties. It's a very good beer. Yet, there is a growing trend that focuses too much on a numbers game. It's advertising. It's the suggestion that more hops and more malts are essential to a better beer. Hogwash. One of the best IPAs anywhere is Blackfoot River Brewing Co.'s Single Malt IPA. It's a crazy good beer with plenty of depth and, as is evident from the name, has only one malt. Brew great beer with however many malts and hops you want to throw in. If they are important to the depth and complexity of the beer, great. But stop trying to convince us that more = better.
There you have it, my "what's trending in beer for 2012." What's trending in your beer world?
* Perhaps you didn't want that level of insight into how the blog operates from time to time.
** 10 points if you got the reference.