Wednesday, 06 April 2011 18:00

Beer Trends in 2011 and Beyond

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The mullet, Disco Music, socks with toes, man perms, jeans with the zippers up the legs, a bandana tied around one of those zippered legs, shoulder pads, goldfish swallowing (really?), "Just Say No"…thankfully, all just fads.

A fad by definition is a short-term event, what some may call a 'flash in the pan'.  A trend, on the other hand, has the potential of becoming a long-term influence on the future of a market. Industry acceptance and the number of industries it affects also determine whether something like nicotine beer can become a trend (infused beers, perhaps, but thank God nicotine beer has NOT become a trend). To some, the word, ‘trend’ may be losing its true meaning.

The craft beer industry is a creative bunch and in so proving is what I (and many others) think are current and future trends in the U.S. (and likely in parts of Europe as well).

Cans are coming back! The beer can celebrated its 75th anniversary last year.  In 2010, it’s been reported that about 75 craft breweries offer their beer in cans.  Despite the stigma of watery, metallic swill, cans actually protect the ingredients from sunlight and oxygen, which can degrade the flavor over time. Craft breweries have been canning beer since 2001 when Cask Brewing Systems developed a new system for small breweries.  Thanks in part to this microcanning equipment and upgrades in can linings, you can now take craft beer to the golf course, to concerts, or to the river. Most of you probably know that cans contain small levels of bisphenol A (BPA).  The first comprehensive testing of bisphenol A (BPA) levels in canned soft drinks in Canada has found that most contain the controversial chemical.  BPA is an organic compound that is used as a hardener in the epoxy coating that lines our cans so that the metal stays away from the food. Bisphenol A has been linked to cancer and infertility and has been deemed a “chemical of concern” by the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel.  With that said, I certainly am no scientist and  I’m not a telling anyone they should avoid cans.  Many scientists seem to agree that BPA exposure may not be so good for infants and young children, which, of course, would not be of much concern to adults.  So, personally, I’ll drink beer out of cans because a.) I’m not an infant or a child and b.) I don’t drink cans very often.  On a good note, they’re more commonly recycled (the Container Recycling Institute claims that the can recycling rate is almost twice that of glass).

The first Southern California craft beer available in a can hit L.A. just last weekend, San Diego-based TailGate Beer Blacktop Blonde.  Want more proof this trend isn’t going anywhere?  The Tin Can Ale House in San Diego offers over 70 canned beers and 3 on tap. Run by musicians, artists, and beer lovers, the Tin Can is located near a tranny bar in Banker’s Hill.

Here’s just a few craft breweries that are offering their beer in cans:

New Belgium Brewing - Fat Tire Amber Ale
Oskar Blues  - Dale’s Pale Ale  (“America’s first canned craft beer”)
21st Amendment - Brew Free or Die IPA & Hell or High Watermelon Wheat
Good People Brewing Company
Avery Brewing
Boulder Brewing - Hazed and Infused
Ska Brewing
7 Seas Brewing

Now, on a slightly sideways topic, but still in the realm of cans - what about smaller size bottles or cans? I personally haven’t seen this yet (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t already exist), but with the proliferation of beer tastings, festivals, and pairings, I can’t imagine it would be a bad idea.  Right?  The breweries could use this for tastings or beer classes.

Collaborations/Blending – this trend is alive and well, not only the U.S. beer community, but the European community as well.  For my last article on collaborations, see  But to expand on this awesome trend, breweries are teaming up with chefs for truly tasty and all together, altruistic brews.

Many collaborative beers incorporate ingredients that represent the brewery’s origins, therefore it just makes sense that local food companies and restaurants would get in on the action.

Brooklyn Brewery is teaming up with Italy’s Birra Amarcord this year to create Amarcord Special Reserve, a unique beer that offers local sour cherries, sloe berries and honey. Paying homage to Italian poet, director and playwright Tonino Guerra, the collaborative beer should be available this fall.

Goose Island has been quite innovative in this area.  Two special Goose Island collaborations with a few of Chicago’s culinary titans will hit shelves early this year.  Look for Marisol, a fruit-and-spice “Latin white ale” made in conjunction with Frontera Grill chef Rick Bayless, and a barrel-aged sour ale brewed with C-House chef Marcus Samuelsson, that is yet to be named.

Goose Island Clybourn Head Brewer Jared Rouben and Chef Graham Elliot are also working on a series of beers now that are collaborative efforts with a local chef, including such culinary artists as Laurent Gras. Graham Elliot is one of a series of restaurants that have participated in Goose Island's chef brewing program.  In the program, a chef meets with brewmaster Jared Rouben and decides on the kind of beer they'd like to make. 

Terrapin’s Gamma Ray, which is a wheatwine that incorporates honey from Savannah, GA’s Savannah Bee Company.   This will give a whole new meaning to ‘drinking your lunch’ and one that I am looking forward to helping redefine.

The third trend hit the beer scene is the new beer style, Black IPA. Also referred to as American Black Ale or Cascadian Dark Ale, ales of this style range from dark brown to pitch black and are often quite hoppy, usually utilizing American hops.  Showcasing  an undercurrent of dark roastiness, this style has ascended to a permanent beer style regular status in a proverbial blink of an eye.  With this sudden rise in popularity comes the opinion that many of these beers are nothing more than an IPA with a dark color.  As we get into the second quarter of 2011, we’ll be sure to see the noteworthy Black IPA’s rise to the surface. Widmer Brothers is one of the latest breweries to release a black IPA, Pitch Black, a year-round offering.  Also try:

Back in Black (A double whamy of beer trends! This one comes in cans!) by 21st Amendment Brewery
Hop in the Dark – Deschutes Brewery
Trout Hop Black IPA – Grand Teton Brewing Co.
Left Coast The Wedge – Left Coast Brewing Company
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale with Amarillo Hops – Stone Brewing Co.
DogZilla Black IPA from Laughing Dog Brewery

Last, but not least, women drinking beer.  You didn’t think I would leave THAT out, did you? For me, personally, this hasn’t been a trend so much as a lifestyle and hobby. With the mainstream population, it’s been found that drinking moderately can help fight high blood pressure and cholesterol.  And, according to a National Restaurant Association survey, about half of women are ordering microbrews when eating out. Take note beer advertisers, women are more increasingly appreciating beer.

There are several more trends worth noting (and enjoying!) like, artisanal beer-tasting rooms and beer-pairing dinners, organic beer and the rise of sour beers.  Cheers to these many wonderfully tasty trends!

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