It might feel impossible to peer through the IPA haze and see what’s coming next for the world of craft beer, but if one thing is certain, it’s that the industry continues to embrace change. New drinks trends emerge at rapid rates, and the beer market continues to reflect these shifting desires.
There is no one consensus on the next big beer style, and that’s because there is no one type of beer drinker. Consumers drive trends — and in the craft beer industry, purchasers are more diverse than ever before. Gone are the days of middle-aged white males dominating the beer scene. Millennials, women, and geographically diverse populations now comprise larger segments of the beer-drinking population than ever. The presence of breweries has exploded across the U.S., too, meaning more beer options are available to more people than ever before.
We asked 16 brewers to look toward the future and share which beer styles might be the next big thing. Here are the styles they think will soon fill the hearts (and beer glasses) of consumers and industry pros alike.
The Next Big Beer Style, According to Brewers
- Hazy IPA
- Smoked beer
- Fruited sours
- Light beer
- Low-ABV beer
- Cold IPA
- West Coast IPA
- Old World beer
- Passion beer
“I think there’s going to be a continued expansion of the hazy IPA subcategory of American IPA — the largest craft beer segment. I feel that the hazy segment is going to splinter into more subsegments, just like the main IPA category did a few years ago. There will be bigger imperial hazys, fruit hazy variations, low-alcohol versions, and more. I also feel that you’ll continue to see more fruited beers across all styles.” —Jeff Huss, founder & brewmaster, Huss Brewing Co., Tempe, Ariz.
“This is a tough question, since beer trends are tricky to anticipate in this industry, but I’ll take a speculative stab. I think hazy IPAs will remain dominant for a while, but they will continue to be enhanced further by more advanced hop products. We are seeing new hop oil extracts such as Incognito, Salvo, and Spectrum to name a few. We will continue to see the style become brighter, fruitier, and juicier. The rapid rollout of new hop varieties will also contribute to this trend, as it has for the last few years already.” —Ryan Speyrer, head brewer, Parish Brewing Company, Broussard, La.
“Smoked beers. This might not be the next big beer style for sheer volume, but it could be the next big one for beer connoisseurs. The smoked beers of Bamberg, Germany, have held a special place in the brewing world for centuries and are seeing a resurgence in the U.S. With a quick glance at the rapidly growing Facebook group ‘This Week in Rauchbier,’ you can see that brewers around the country are making a wide array of smoked beers using different base styles and different smoked grains. Yes, they can be polarizing. But the diversity of the category makes them some of the best beverages out there for food pairings, to the point where I could easily see a five-course dinner paired with all smoked beers. Looks like I need to plan that out now…” —Andy Parker, director of innovation, Denver Beer Co., Denver
“The next big beer style is the fruited session sour. While not necessarily new, there are not very many widely available options currently, but that’s about to change. Low-ABV, fruited sours are providing a lighter and more convenient option for fans of wine and cocktails who like bold flavors and don’t mind some acidity. These refreshing options are appealing to drinkers who don’t traditionally like the taste of beer, but love the idea of supporting local breweries — especially where they’ve had a memorable experience. The style is beginning to break through into the mainstream, and growth is about to explode.” —Doug Veliky, chief strategy officer, Revolution Brewing, Chicago
“I see a big jump in fruited tart sour IPAs. The hybrid style highlights the love for fruited sours and big juicy IPAs that are very popular, and I think more breweries will start making that style. Breweries have also been pushing the boundaries of what styles ‘should be’ for as long as people have been brewing and following the tastes of consumers. I think the trend of consumers wanting to focus on local ingredients is key. The more consumers feel a connection with local ingredients and local flavors, the more they will be eager to purchase that style.” —Ian Little, production manager, Lone Pine Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
“I think fruited beers are the next big beer style. We consistently see our fruited blondes, pilsners and even sour beers sell faster than other styles in our taprooms. The recent explosion of seltzers has changed consumers’ palates. Fruited, light beers are an approachable style that gets people back into and excited about beer.” —Karen Hertz, founder, Holidaily Brewing Co., Golden, Colo.
“The next big beer style, believe it or not, is pilsner. Why? Pilsner is the James Bond movie, the big sprawling Western of beers. James Bond movies and Westerns only have two or three plots — you already know what’ll happen. But in the right hands, the form is direct, complex, satisfying, and thrilling. That’s pilsner … and you know you want it.” —Garrett Oliver, brewmaster, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
“We think the next big beer style is the opposite of big — light beer. While bland, watery versions of light beer from macro brands are already quite popular, we think there’s a huge opportunity in flavorful, delicious light beer from craft breweries. Our Nite Lite is one great example — a crisp, crushable American light lager packed with flavor but only 120 calories. And new this year to our lineup will be Day Lite — a 100 calorie wheat lager with orange peel that’s a perfect all-day crusher hitting 12-packs this summer. We think more and more beer drinkers will ‘keep it lite’ going into 2022 and beyond.” —Michael Oxton, co-founder, Night Shift Brewing, Everett, Mass.
“Down the road, hemp, CBD, and cannabis will begin to permeate the beer shelves. But that will take some time. What I think will most immediately shift to the forefront are sessionable, low-ABV, and low-calorie beers. While the market for heavier beers of all styles (stouts, sours, and IPAs) will never go away, it’s very saturated. To remain relevant in the industry right now is to cater to a diverse palate. Not everyone wants a heavy, thick beer. Low-ABV options are more attractive for someone who doesn’t want to completely abstain from alcohol, but wants to be able to enjoy more than one beer in a sitting. This trend is starting slowly, but I anticipate the demand will jump in the coming months and year.” —Mark Johnson, head brewer, DuClaw Brewing Company, Baltimore
“I believe cold IPA has gigantic potential as the next big trend in craft beer. I can sense the pendulum swinging back toward bitter IPA after years of sweeter and juicy being more in fashion. Enter cold IPA: the antidote to too many hazy IPAs. Bursting with hop aroma and featuring a full- palate hop assault, it’s a style you must try to appreciate. The dryness provided by the yeast and adjunct allows pure hop expression to pervade your senses. As craft beer drinkers get exposed to this style more and more, we should see it continue to gain momentum.” —Adam Beauchamp, chief operating officer & co-founder, Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Athens, Ga.
“Craft lagers are really having their moment, and it’s beginning to spill over into the consumer side. Part of this is because they’re easy-drinking and a refreshing break from the haze beers dominating the market right now, but also because really good lagers are hard to make, and brewers are finally getting really, really good at it. In my heart of hearts, I also see room for obscure English styles like ESB and dark mild taking off. They’re low-ABV, easy-drinking, and comforting, while still having a complexity you just don’t get with lagers. I can’t tell if they’ll actually take off or if my opinion is being swayed by the number of brewers and beer writers I see posting about them on Instagram stories, but I wouldn’t be mad at that.” —Zach Mack, owner, Alphabet City Beer Co., NYC
“For years, people have been saying it’s the ‘Year of the Lager.’ But we think it’s finally here. We’re riding the wave of lager love with two of our most popular year-round beers. Sunshine Pilsner is at the bright and crisp end of the spectrum, and Troegenator Double Bock is way over on the dark and crisp end.” —John Trogner, brewmaster, Tröegs Independent Brewing, Hershey, Pa.
“A lot of us brewers are wishing we had crystal balls. But we keep hearing that beer drinkers are moving back to lagers and other lighter styles. We’re also hearing that West Coast IPAs are making a bit of a comeback.” —Mitch Steele, chief operating officer, co-founder, & brewmaster, New Realm Brewing Company, Atlanta
“I think the next big style is a West Coast IPA. We’re finally slowing down on the ‘haze craze,’ and we’re loving a slightly more dank and resinous IPA. We’ve just launched our take on a West Coast IPA, LIGO West Coast IPA, and it’s full of citrus, dankness, and pine. We’re hearing a ton of great feedback from our staff, accounts, and customers already. I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of these pop up in the market.” —John Harris, owner & brewmaster, Ecliptic Brewing, Portland, Ore.
“I believe the next new beer trend will be going back to Old World brews — traditionally brewed lagers, hefeweizen, dunkels, and so on. I can also see more India pale ales being a thing, as well as cold-brewed lagers. The next big style seems to always be IPA, because that’s what the public wants, so that’s where a lot of the innovation comes from.” —Andrew Hood, sour & barrel-aging manager, Sun King Brewery & Spirits, Indianapolis
“I believe that passion beers are going to be the new trend — beers that do not have to remain within rigid style guidelines but use ingredients to tell a story. We are all experiencing life so vividly, and beer is a beautiful canvas to share a moment or person that is close to you. Being able to craft a beverage that allows you to travel to a time, place, or person is what this art form is all about. Scientifically, I believe a style that will be explored more in the next year are pseudo-lagers — a brilliant yeast strain that allows you to create a clean and crisp lager beverage on an ale timeline. With fewer restraints like time, space, and temperature, you have more freedom to develop unique brews for all to enjoy.” —Eilise Lane, CEO & head brewer, Scarlet Lane Brewing Company, Indianapolis