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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Saturday, 8 November 2008

Let's have a heated debate!

I've done enough pontificating for a few days and wanted to try something different.

Most of the people who read this blog really seem to know their stuff, so let me ask you a question: what's the next big thing in beer? What's the next thing we're excited about that has a real chance of going mainstream? Think about how Hoegaarden launched in the UK a decade ago: building slowly with little in the way of marketing hype, to the point where wheat beer is now an established sector in the beer market that doesn't scare the mainstream drinker.

Things are very exciting just now -we've got more choice and variety in beer than ever before if you know where to look for it. Deus and Kasteel Cru have pegged out a 'champagne beer' niche that seems to have a lot more room in it. Innis & Gunn has blazed a trail leading wood-aged beers into the supermarket and we've seen an explosion of whisky-aged beers from Schiehallion, Orkney, Brew Dog, and now Fuller's. Brew Dog's Punk IPA and Thornbridge's Jaipur show that British brewers can make big, American-style IPAs, and we're getting more of the US beers readily available. And what's happening in the States now? What's creating a beery buzz over there?

Will 2009 be the year we see another big beer style go mainstream?

I may be using some of the answers to this for a commercial project for which I will be paid money. If this offends your sensibilities and you feel it contravenes the unwritten ethics of blogging I apologise. I'm making this clear so that if you object, you can choose to withhold comment. But if you don't mind, I'd love to hear what you think and would hope that it would create an interesting thread!

18 comments:

Lars Marius Garshol said...

Smoked beers appear to be on the way to becoming a next big thing. They were certainly very much in evidence at the European Beer Festival in Copenhagen. The new smoke beers I've seen were all Scandinavian, though, and so it's hard to say if this would make it to the UK or not.

I guess I should also add that smoke beers do not have to be as assertive as the Schlenkerla märzen & urbock. Many of these beers exhibited more subtle smoky flavours (as do some of the original Bamberg smoke beers) where the smoke flavour is just one of several components contributing to a harmonic and balanced beer.

In Nøgne Ø's Imperial Stout you can sort of tell the smoke is filling out the taste a bit if you read on the label that they used smoked malts, but otherwise you probably wouldn't know.

Lars Marius Garshol said...

"it's hard to say if this would make it to the UK or not."

Turns out smoked beers have made it to the UK already, as Stonch writes.

Fiona Beckett said...

Personally I think American beers, especially American-style IPAs will be big. As you point out the trend has started but has hardly hit the radar so far as most British consumers are concerned. (Could be this is wishful thinking, on the other hand, since it's one of my favourite styles of beer . . . )

William Brand said...

Here in the U.S. "big" beers are very in. Double this, triple that. But looking ahead, I see a lot of brewers interested in sours, brewed at least partially with brettanomyces and, of course, barrel-aged beers both sour and otherwise. Anything that is Belgian-style is hot here.

There's also a bit of interest in milds and session beers: Tasty brews that one can drink in a bit of quantity and still walk away fairly sober. Firestone-
Walker out here in California made a stunning mild, using the second running of a strong beer.

This is info that's not much use in the UK, I realize. You've got the corner on session beers and milds.

Stephen Beaumont said...

Wood-aging will never go mainstream - too much of a hassle to make and too much competition for good barrels. I think Fiona's on the right track, but more likely American hops used in more British formulations, rather than head-on APAs. (That's "American pale ales" in North American beerspeak.)

Then there's fruit; never discount fruit...

Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that the hop shortage will have a major influence on beer styles, US brewers are having to brew styles that are less 'hop agressive' and i think that the UK will follow suit....perhaps the return of the mild?

Anonymous said...

Chimay. Sales are going up and it is selling everywhere. I sell it for a living in SoCal and there are some days that all of my accounts need Chimay. Supposedly they showed something on TV about how they make it and I think that created a spark.

Jeff said...

I don't think the "big beers" you cite have gone mainstream. They're extremely niche. Innis & Gunn is out there, but no-one's heard of Thornbridge yet.

Lars Marius Garshol said...

Hard to say if US-style IPAs will make it to the UK, I think. They've certainly gone big many other places, and are even starting to influence the Belgians, who are rarely on the receiving end of beer influences. So maybe. There aren't many such IPAs in the UK, though.

I doubt the influence of the hop shortage will be permanent, basically because I doubt the shortage will be permanent. The hop market is famously volatile, and raw materials prices have in any case crashed.

Also, since hoppy/big beers haven't really made it to the UK much yet, it's hard to see a similar trend towards "smaller flavourful" beers in the UK, especially given that this has traditionally been what the UK's excelled at, anyway.

Fruit is certainly a possibility. Or other flavourings, like the elderberry and other spices they've started using in Denmark. (Elderberry can be really great in beer, by the way. I love some of those beers.)

I think Jeff has a good point. While wood aging beers is becoming more common even in the UK (which IMHO is very conservative when it comes to beer) you could hardly claim that it's mainstream. So when I argued for smoke would be the next big thing it was for a very specific (and possibly rather small) value of "big".

Bailey said...

It might be mild! Seriously. I've tried giving non-beer-obsessed friends American IPAs and smoked beers and, although some of them get excited, it's nothing compared to the universal approval I've seen for Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde mild. Because it's weak but very, very tasty; dark without being heavy going; and has a certain nostalgic appeal. There are now three (ordinary) pubs near my house serving different brands of mild, and selling bucketloads of the stuff.

BLTP said...

I not sure about smoked beers and or fruit they are a bit like those cheeses that supermarkets randomly stuffed with fruit for no reason raspberry flavoured cheshire anyone? I think they need to be used sparingly and appropriately.
I think the stronger high hopped beers will only truly take off when uk people get used to different glass styles and sizes.

David Stickel said...

Hello, I found my way over from a post on A Good Beer Blog.

Yes, sour beers have been coming for a while, I think they can only get bigger, and Double IPAs have probably hit their peak in the US. And William is right when he says anything Belgian-style is hot right now.

One trend that I think will only get bigger is the collaboration beer. My first exposure to it was the Lost Abbey/De Proef Signature Ale one-off. It was so popular out here that they ended up brewing it again this year.

Stone Brewing really started to jump on this bandwagon, and the results have been great so far.

Back in April, while Steve and Mitch were out in the UK brewing up a big California DIPA, Greg Koch was making plans with Danish superstar Mikkeller to do a collaboration with Alesmith.

And for this season's holiday release, Stone has brought together two more amazing breweries, Jolly Pumpkin and Nogne-O, another result of the Craft Beer Conference held in San Diego back in April.

It's really awesome to see different brewers from different parts of the world come together and make something that's greater than the sum of their parts, and it's a trend that I'd really like to see catch on.

It's kind of like having a foreign exchange student come live with you for a month. Promotes healthy cross-cultural beer awareness!

David Stickel said...

Oh geez, and I didn't even mention Isabelle Proximus!

What's great about these collaboration beers are the stories behind them. Here is Proximus' story: http://lostabbey.com/blog/?p=86

Pete said...

Guys, thanks for all your comments here - really appreciate it. Absolutely no consensus whatsoever, but I didn't expect there to be!

beermerchants said...

There is an interesting collection of opinion.

Honestly, with respect to the UK I think the likely hood is that we will see this:

A thinning of the number of breweries.
A overdose on similar brews - comfort brews.
A minor resurgence of experimental brews.
A move forward from there.

So, I think that there will be less choice here in the UK. Something that I am working hard to avoid. Where Mr Brand is, and an awesome place for beer it is, Belgians are rocking at the moment - they are a style of beer that is so far from their own, and a source of inspiration for many a brewer in the Bay Area.

Honestly, I think that the average British beer consumer, nay Drinker, has a sweet tooth - so the likelihood of hop bombs, smoky ales, and those experiential beers that we all love, will filter into the mainstream but in a slightly different guise than there origins.

The cost factors have to be taken into account. Hops are expensive at the moment. Shipping costs are too. And, in some small way the knowledge of the generalised British Brewer, is limited toward the idea of monster hopped beers etc.
So, I think we can add education to the whole equation - that of educating the Brewer, the consumer and the communicators.

Boak has a point, I believe there will be increased differentiation at the pump, heritage styles will be available more so. Using local ingredients to better effect. But these beers will have to be well crafted to stand out from the masses.

Then Mr Beaumont, I think fruit beers will have some impact. British brewers haven't really grasped the idea of fruit beers like the Belgians - I think there is room for manoeuvre.

I think Collaborative brews from imported brewers will continue to have some impact on the scene. But, we also need to develop a celebrity brewer culture.

Then there is the impact of celebrity in beer, Tony Hadley, Morrisey, May and Clarke. These guys need to be aided, educated to present beer in light it deserves.

bollox, I have gone way out here... sodding weather.

laters.

jesusjohn said...

Bailey said (of mild): "Because it's weak but very, very tasty; dark without being heavy going; and has a certain nostalgic appeal"

I couldn't agree more. Not saying it'll go 'mainstream' as in kicking best bitter off handpumps, but I've noticed pubs already offering a good ale selection more and more advertising 'mild always on' and people are intrigued by it.

I'm 25 and for what it's worth, to most beer drinkers of my generation the sight of cask-conditioned milds, porters and stouts in greater numbers is a first. To may of us, it's as if there were a beer revolution - though drinkers of a certain age I speak to are perplexed by the degree of excitement a group of my friends exhibit when we see a new mild on. (I admit, one would hope a group of guys in their twenties would have other things to get excited about...)

As for the big-beers, I agree with Jeff that they remain niche and will stay there. As with good pubs/bars now offering a range of bottled Belgian/German beers, they will fall into this category. In the UK, we simply prefer beers that are (or can be considered) sessionable.

Darren Turpin said...

I know what I'd like to see - some of the money that Diageo are pouring into their 17:59 ads for Guinness translating into an increased interest in non-nitro-fuelled stouts and porters.

With the likes of Meantime's (very well-packaged and presented) London Stout and London Porter on the shelves in Sainsbury's on a regular basis (although alas, if our local is anything to go by, shelved in the middle of the real ale section rather than next to the Guinness and Murphy's) it would be great if more consumers took the plunge and experimented a little.

But in the meantime, I'd welcome a resurgence of interest in mild, definitely. Anything that reduces the number of identikit lager nozzles lined up along the bar is a good move in my book.

impymalting said...

What a fascinating question-- I'm a bit behind in my blogs so I'm late in the game. I have to agree with Bailey and JesusJohn-- Milds seem an obvious choice, as it is an session beer but could appeal to people who don't like bitters but still want to try real ale.

Personally, I'd like to see experimental (in the mode of Rogue and BrewDog) brews-- particularly reinventions of Imperial Stouts. (Though as others have pointed out there would need to be other glasses for these higher alcohol beers).

I haven't seen a lot of porters or stouts on at my regular haunts and this saddens me-- I would like to see stouts replace some of the ubiquitous bitters!