In the beer industry, as any other, haters gonna hate. Still, there’s a lot to love in beer. And so VinePair canvassed brewery employees and community leaders across the country to share what they love most about the industry right now.
Spoiler alert: A lot of industry members we spoke to are over the moon about a certain crisp, bottom-fermented beer style. Beyond that, however, brewers are celebrating both classic and experimental styles, and a few even admit to falling for some unexpected trends.
Below are the best things 20 beer industry members think are happening in beer right now.
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“Craft lagers. Especially a great pilsner.” — Yiga Miyashiro, Senior Director of Brewery Operations, Saint Archer Brewing Company, San Diego, CA
“I’m a woman who loves her porters and Belgian-style quads. So when I started obsessively seeking out a particular rosé beer this summer, I’d joke with my husband, ‘Don’t you dare tell anyone I’m drinking rosé beer!’ I don’t even like rosé wine, but this beer is spectacular. I hide it in the drawer of our beer fridge so he doesn’t see it, and drink it after I’ve gone to bed. Once my sisters got a taste, they have been hooked, too. We text each other when we find it and we stock up on extra sixers for each other. My oldest sister has talked to her closest bottle shop twice about stocking it (because they don’t yet, even though they carry beers from that brewery). I guess the secret about my summer of the rosé beer is out.” — Jess Baker, Editor in Chief, CraftBeer.com
“The best trend I’m seeing right now is the movement of brewers choosing to source local grain, hops, and fruits grown in their home states. In the four years we have been sourcing local malt and hops, we have developed close relationships with our farmers with a better understanding of where our ingredients come from, and a higher respect for how it gets to us.” — Jon Kielty, Head Brewer, Big Alice Brewing, Queens, N.Y.
“Brewers are considering classic styles again.” — Teri Fahrendof, Founder, Pink Boots Society
“My favorite trend in beer now is session beers. Gimme all the low-ABV beers with quality AND quantity. Hit me with a nice fruited, funky table beer or a super-effervescent naked Berliner Weisse — something that I can enjoy over the course of a 4-hour lunch!” — Chris Gilmore, Brewer, Lone Tree Brewing Company, Lone Tree, CO
“Czech-style faucets FOREVER. Lots of bars/breweries are adding a full Czech tower or side pull faucet. It’s an L-shaped spout with a wooden handle that when you pull from the side to the center the beer cascades out, making the beer silky with oodles of wet foam. It’s great for added authenticity now that many breweries are brewing Czech lagers (and more Czech dark lagers, too — like if a porter and a Munich Dunkel had a really awesome child together). Also, I really hope it’s not a trend because Czech beers are the OG — it’s been a trend for over 150 years!” — Em Sauter, Founder/Cartoonist, Pints and Panels, Author, “Beer is for Everyone (of Drinking Age)”
“Lagers. Lagers. Lagers. Any brewery that is putting out a nice clean lager, especially one without any adjuncts or that’s overly hopped. This really helps showcase the skill of small craft brewers and can show macro beer drinkers that craft isn’t so scary after all.” — Stephen Hale, Founding Brewer, Schlafly Beer, St. Louis, MO
“I’m hesitant to call it a trend, but I love that breweries are really diving into positively supporting the communities of which they are a part of and doing the work to diversify. Diversity and giving back of course within our own beloved beer community, but the ripple effect of beer as a centerpiece of the bar supports beer being emphatically used as a tool for social change.” — Gabe Barry, Education Manager of Europe, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Overall, seeing a shift toward (more) lower-ABV, classic styles available more often. Pils, Helles, varieties of lagers. More seasonally fruited ales, with rotating fruits. An overall wider variety for those seeking something beyond the hop kick.” — Ann Reilly, Executive Director, New York City Brewers Guild
“The proliferation of craft lagers! I love that nearly every brewery is making some kind of lager, and they’re typically excellent.” — Heather McReynolds, Guinness Social Media Correspondent, Taylor, New York, N.Y.
“Growth in uncommon packaging formats. While 12- and 16-ounce cans continue to accelerate as the preferred packaging format for craft beer, new options are starting to emerge as a way to differentiate on retail shelves. From 8-ounce stubby cans to the 19.2-ounce stovepipe, the growth of less common packaging categories will begin offering an alternative to the formats that arguably built the recent wave of small independent craft. As an advocate for options, I’m excited for this trend. Pounders aren’t for everyone.” — Tom Madden, Co-founder and Head Brewer, Lone Pine Brewing, Portland, ME
“General discontent. It’s productive and healthy to discuss the low number of minorities and women brewing beer, to call someone out for stealing someone else’s ideas, to debate the use of particular ingredients, and even to poke fun at the silliness of certain aspects of our industry. As much as we’d all take pleasure in silencing some voices, social media has provided a platform for a lot of these topics. These conversations help us evolve and create better experiences for our coworkers and our consumers. These are important debates in a market constantly bombarded by inauthentic products looking for an easy cut; we can’t afford to be stagnant.” — Sam Pecoraro, Head Brewer, Von Ebert Brewing–Pearl, Portland, OR
“I think the best trend in beer right now is the craft American lager boon. I’m actually surprised this didn’t happen in 2015 after Budweiser’s ‘Made the Hard Way’ campaign. Nevertheless, the fact that craft brewers are looking to continue to steal macro-brew’s market share with better versions of their own macro products is amazing. And bonus points for being the antithesis of the recent, overly adjunct IPAs.” — Merlin U. Ward, Founder, Wartega Brewing, Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I love that breweries are putting on their own festivals. There’s a stark difference between a beer fest put on by a production company versus one put on by a brewery. With brewery-run festivals, you know that the quality of the beer is at the forefront of the organizers’ minds and that they are going to take good care of their invited brewers, since it’s their colleagues and often their friends. It’s also a different experience for participants, because throwing a festival isn’t the brewery’s main source of income, so they are more willing to take chances and curate a cohesive experience, rather than try to stick to a budget and get the most bang for their buck.” — Sofia Barbaresco, Brand Director, Industrial Arts Brewing, Garnerville, N.Y.
“The best trend in beer right now is the gradual move back to lagers! I think a lot of people are burned out on the hop bombs and milkshake IPA fad.” — Katarina Martinez, Director of Marketing, Market Garden Brewery, Cleveland, OH
“The biggest trend in beer right now is health-conscious brands. For example, lower-calorie beers, hard seltzer, and ciders. I think products geared towards healthy consumers are going to drive growth for a long time.” — Luke Bowen, Owner, Evil Genius Brewing Company, Philadelphia, PA
“The best trend in beer is the effort to increase diversity in the industry. The Brewer’s Association recently hired J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Ph.D., as its first-ever diversity ambassador and the Pink Boots Society is actively investing in infrastructure, education, and expansion. We can’t wait to see more diversity in both the end consumers and the professionals creating and serving craft beer.” — Tara Hankinson & LeAnn Darland, Co-Founders, TALEA Beer Co., New York, N.Y.
“I think the best trend in beer right now is people getting back to drinking classic styles. The NEIPA has dominated the market for a while now, and there’s a school of thought that a brewery’s ability to make a good NEIPA signifies a good brewery, and that’s a shame. However, it seems drinkers are becoming more educated on beer styles, while seeking out things that are genuinely a challenge to make, like lagers and saisons, which is pretty cool to see. We have several people coming in each week asking what the staff and brewers are drinking, and that makes me think we’re moving in the right direction as an industry.” — Matt McCall, Head Brewer, Coney Island Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
“The ‘best’ trend in beer right now is competition. As more and more breweries open up in areas where there was once limited competition, you’ll slowly find the quality of the beer in that area increases. A brewery without strong competition is a brewery that might rest on its laurels. Healthy competition will drive innovation and refocus a brewer to make sure that their beer is as good as it can be. The consumer will benefit from both results and reward that brewery with more business. As hot trends and fads come and go, your focus as a brewer should always be to improve your product’s consistency. A recipe is only as good as the chef.” — Guy Bartmess, Brewmaster, Garage Brewing Co., Murrieta, CA
“A rising trend I have noticed in beer is minorities becoming more visible/vocal in the space. Brewing has predominantly been straight white men, so it’s positive to see more voices and faces at the table making and enjoying great beer. Crown and Hops and Queer Brewing [Project] and other queer-positive breweries like Denizens are solid examples of this. Diversity should be celebrated, not avoided or something to be afraid of. We need new ideas and opinions in beer as part of the innovation process so this is really, really a good thing for the industry.” — Megan Stone, Brewer, DuClaw Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD