When it comes to craft beer, there’s no getting around the fact that IPAs reign supreme. Seemingly every brewery has a flagship IPA on tap because IPAs are the money makers. People know what to expect: big hops, moderately high alcohol by volume, and, if you’re ordering a New England IPA, thick and juicy.
But what’s next? We reached out to 13 craft brewers to see what they think the next big style in American craft beer will be.
“I’m torn on which will be the next ‘it’ style, but my gut tells me sours are going to be rising in popularity, especially with the younger fans. The other possibility is anything barrel-aged, be it sour or not.” — Pete Anderson, co-owner of Pareidolia Brewing Company.
“It’s regional of course, but down here in South Florida, I can see folks moving towards an approachable IPA. An IPA with a good malt backbone, very approachable bitterness, and a ton of hop flavor. Essentially, a pale ale, with an ‘I’ in front of it so it sells.” — John Falco, head brewer Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Company.
“Low-alcohol beer. High-alcohol-by-volume beer was a major part the sales pitch for craft beer in its infancy. When small breweries couldn’t compete on price, they increased their value proposition with more bang for your buck. I enjoy being able to have a beer and still have a conversation, and I think that is an aspect that more people will look for in the future.” — Patrick Byrnes, head brewer at Islamorada Beer Company.
“I think the next most popular styles of craft beer will be lighter bodied, light in color, crisper beers with just the right balance of hops — like pilsners, dry hopped blonde ales, and dry hopped lagers. Why? Two reasons: First, IPAs — while often packed with flavor and body — aren’t the right beer for every occasion. (I know, treasonous! 🙂 ) Many consumers drawn to craft beer by the hops will realize that it is much more enjoyable to be drinking a cool, crisp, lighter-bodied beer outside on a hot summer’s day than a heavier-bodied IPA. And these lighter-bodied styles don’t require consumers to sacrifice too much hop aroma or flavor. Second, from a craft brewer’s perspective, since there is a lot of competition in the IPA category, it would make sense to expand into, and innovate in, styles (like lagers) normally dominated by megabrewers. More variety and innovation will surely draw consumer interest.” — Nicole Carrier, co-founder and president of Throwback Brewery.
“Balanced/sessionable styles. I’m a big advocate for the brown and the bitter/ESB. Beers that are complex if you want to dive into ingredient and process, but also crazy drinkable and approachable if you just want to sit down for a pint or several.” — Jon Mansfield, brewery operations manager at Warhorse Brewing Company.
“I believe lagers are the next trend in craft beer and it is because the push has been for so long to make a beer more hoppy, more bold, more…. and lagers for the most part are just the opposite.” — Eric Meyer, brewmaster at Cahaba Brewing.
“In my opinion, it will be a group of styles, with a massive focus around being easy drinking, sessionable, yet flavorful, beer. Craft is becoming more mainstream, so popular styles will necessarily trend towards more universal tastes. In our words that means approachable and balanced and one of the key reasons behind why we’ve introduced Bronx Banner.” — Damian Brown, brewmaster at Bronx Brewery.
“I’m going to take a stab that it’ll be American Hopped Light Lagers.” — Chris Riphenburg, co-owner and head brewer of Ale Asylum.
“Mixed fermentation and wild strain barrel aged beers. These are already popular styles, but the problem is that it’s a real pain in the butt to create these beers at any significant volume. Each barrel in which the beer is fermenting imparts its own unique characteristics to the base beer — with some barrels just getting dumped out because the beer didn’t turn out well. Adding to that problem is that some of these beers take 12-18 months (or longer) to age. Because of these production issues, the beers tend to be very expensive. With that said, there are probably a few breweries out there right now trying to figure out how to produce these beers in shorter amounts of time, at large volumes (multi-state distribution), and at competitive price points. The first breweries to figure that out are going to be very popular.” — Davin Helden, CEO of Liquid Mechanics Brewing.
“Craft lagers. There are already a few great craft lager brewers in Colorado making fantastic pilsners, dunkels and the like. These beers are hard to make, but easy to drink year round, and appeal to the same traditionalists in the community that have started to make cask ales more popular.” — Alan Windhausen, head brewer at Pikes Peak Brewing Company.
“Sours & barrel-aged beers are already popular and I think they will continue to grow. I think these are beers people are getting behind, since they are something people may have never tried before. I also think saisons and farmhouse beers are really close to being more popular.” — Ian Smith, co-owner of Three Rings Brewery.
“I would love to see classic German lagers take hold again, and I think they will increase in popularity, but I think the next hot style will be gose. It is sessionable, and when done well, balanced and just tart enough to be refreshing enough that you want more. They’re relatively cheap to make and sour styles are on the rise.” — Chris Davison, head brewer at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.
“I think Pilsners are already showing that they are going to be a heavyweight in craft. On the back of Firestone’s Pivo, which showed people a pils could be hoppy flavorful and delicious, a bunch of brewers now are putting out really great pilsners.” — Kevin Blodger, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Union Craft Brewing.