Grab a cold one, it’s time to settle in and learn about what’s new for brew in 2017!
The beer industry has a way of capturing our hearts like no other: it’s associated with nationalism, freedom, celebration, momentous occasions, and relaxing with friends. It’s always associated with a good time. What’s more? Beer apparently makes its drinker more creative. It’s been scientifically proven that alcohol accelerates the creative process by relaxing the brain and allowing nonlinear thoughts to occur, which can result in creative insights. So it’s no surprise that beer finds itself in an endlessly innovative and creative marketplace. The adage, “There’s always something happening around beer”, holds true beyond the pint, all the way back to the barrel and into the office.
It seems every aspect of the beer industry is changing, from flavor to marketing to technology. And not just small trending changes, but fundamental changes to the mainframe of the industry.
In this report, we find out how today’s beer industry will affect tomorrow’s breweries, what’s trending for 2017, and what’s here to stay.
NEW FLAVORS AND STYLES
While you can count on some old staples to hold true, new flavor trends have emerged prompting breweries to get increasingly creative with the taste profiles they’re producing. In 2010, a mere 15% of new beers on the market were flavored. Compared to in 2015, that number grew to 27% – an 80% increase over five years. And while the numbers for 2016 have yet to come in, you can bet they’re on the same upward trajectory because, “57% of beer drinkers who increased their beer consumption in 2015 credit the increase to a wider availability of flavors”.
More thirsty patrons leads to more demand for exotic flavors. Plus, with the increasing popularity of craft breweries, the choices available have become endless. In fact, “if you visited one brewery daily, it’d take 11-plus years to hit [America’s] 4,269 beer makers.” This leads to more competition and of course, creativity. So what are the hottest flavors on the market now and what can we expect to see more of?
Flavored beer: As beverage writer, Ashley Routson writes, “Fruit beers are the new black.” Summer is for grapefruit. Autumn is for pumpkin. Winter is for chocolate. Spring is for wheat. Attributed to the sweet tastes of Millennials, microbreweries – and even big breweries – are using flavor to attract new customers and avoid stagnation. Apricot, grapefruit, and raspberry ales have flooded the market. The Radler, which was first invented in Germany in the 1920s, is enjoying a resurgence, bringing a whole new fleet of lagers mixed with sparkling citrus, lemonade, or grapefruit juice. It’s also said to be an instant hangover cure!
Weird beer: To contend with the competition, brewers are getting risky and producing beer that tickles the tastebuds – and curiosity. Nearing the top of the odd beer scale is Quebec microbrewery HopEra’s ‘Homie’s Skate Beer’, which is beer brewed with skateboards. They also have a lobster beer, which is – you guessed it – brewed with lobster shells. Some breweries are pushing it even further like Wynkoop Brewing’s ‘Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout’, with it’s anything- but-subtle differentiator: “25 lbs of freshly sliced and roasted bull testicles.” The point is, if it’s weird and delicious, you might have a winner on your hands.
Craft Cider: While the demand for cider spiked a couple of years ago, it’s gained a strong market hold that isn’t letting go anytime soon. The Great Lakes International Craft and Perry Competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan judged nearly 800 entrants in its commercial division in 2016, almost tripling its entries in three years. What’s more? The global market for cider is projected to reach 12.9 billion US by 2020. Brewers, start planting those apple trees!
Organic/local: Like produce, dairy and meat, drinking organic and local beer is a lifestyle choice that’s no longer a trend but a norm that’s becoming a mainstay amongst the beer-drinking masses. According to Technavio’s global organic drinks market report, though more expensive and time-consuming to produce, organic beers and wines are expected to grow at a rate of 24.5% from 2013 to 2019. While, of course, we’re reminded that “‘local’ and ‘craft’ are not synonyms for ‘good’,” there are indeed many organic and local labels that are. And supporting sustainable and local farming operations is never a bad thing.
Nitro beers: Some are calling today’s resurgence of the nitro trend, “Nitro Mania.” While nitro stouts are nothing new – cough, Guinness, cough – we’re seeing a resurgence of nitro’s popularity, partially as a result of the coffee industry who’s started using old brew techniques to make smoother coffee. In effect, those foamy, tiny bubbles, and that craving for a smooth creamy taste has bled back into the beer industry. As beer continues to ride the nitro wave created by coffee, we could venture to say that next year might bring about more coffee stouts as the two trends continue to collide.
Sours: Where nitro beers are absent of any bitter or sourness, on the other end of the spectrum, sour beers are coming back in vogue. They call it “wild beer” for its sour, barnyard, or earthy notes. While yes, there’s the taste element, this particular trend actually does go back to the farm. Ryan Kilpatrick of Fiction Beer Co. explains, “In a time when new hops are hard to come by due to demand, brewers will turn to other techniques to develop those unique characteristics brewers desire in their beer. The creation of flavor and aromas using a kettle-sour process – lacto in the fermenter and wild yeasts – will become more prevalent. The possibilities for flavor combinations are nearly limitless. The use of these techniques combines existing hop characteristics, acids, and proteins to create desirable compounds that are difficult to obtain without the use of sour or wild techniques.” So, as a result of taste mimicking resources, the sour beer will be tickling tastebuds until the hops situation has levelled out.
Beer shakes: Yes, you read that right, the beer milkshake is popping up on drink menus. It simply consists of beer + ice cream mixed together into what can only be described as beverage heaven. With the bitter barley and sweet ice cream, it’s a wonder the creamy stout, caramel, vanilla, chocolate concoction hasn’t emerged sooner.
Root beer: Boozy root beer, with double the froth, is finally making its mark. The trend began in the U.S. last year, and it’s now officially starting its North American take over. Ontario’s Mill Street Brewery takes their Vanilla Porter Bierschnaps and mixes it with their homemade root beer to produce a hard soda. Demand is so high for their Original Root Beer, they have to work overtime to keep up. You can be sure, the boozy root beer craze is coming your way.
NEW TRENDS IN LABELING
They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t judge a beer by its label. We’ve all been there: standing in front of a wall of craft brews, wanting to try something new but having no idea whether our investment will pay off with a new favorite or a tragic, wasteful pour down the drain. Some strange logic always convinces us: if the brewer was clever enough to create a compelling label, they’ll be creative enough to create a delicious beer. This logic is obviously flawed – there are plenty of great beers with terrible labels – but looks still manage to win us over. Here are some of the most interesting labels hitting the market as predicted by Trend Hunter. They’re sure to please the hipster in all of us.
Whimsical Designs: Visualizing the literal interpretation of their brand name, the UK’s Moonchild Brewing Co. created this whimsical and beautiful label in collaboration with a local artist. Using local artists is another long-standing trend that serves to create positive ties between customers and your brand, and reinforces the local aspect that craft breweries also benefit from.
Geometric & Minimalist: In stark contrast with the whimsical design, these cans stand out for their color-blocking and bright colors. While the cans might immediately bring to mind the MET, they were actually made to mimic the London art gallery, Tate Modern. English art director and graphic designer Peter Saville was commissioned to create the minimalist can design for Fourpure Brewing’s Switch House beer.
Sci-Fi: Have a beer and let your inner comic book geek rejoice! Poland’s ‘Probus Brewery’ created a line of characters to match each of their different beers. Trend Hunter writes: “The labels feature imagery such as polar bear astronauts escaping from a planet that resembles earth and a pig-human hybrid that looks as though it is being beamed down to earth.” Pretty neat!
Animal Inspired: One quick peruse around the liquor stores today, and you’ll see a lot of animals being used in branding. Brewery Beer Inc. used a creative labelling series with a mix of wildlife and human characters designed to, “represent the distinct connections between the beer and the region it is aiming to represent.” Making a visual connection to their locale, Biella in the Alps, is a step further than most brands go.
Farm to Table: When someone buys a product that’s advertised as farm to table, they care about the way their beer is made. Putting those pieces together in their branding, Almanac has taken the farm to table ethos and visualized it directly in their packaging. Notice too how the design has a graphic ‘old school’ vibe. While this style emerged as a trend a few years ago, it’s still prevalent among beer branding.
Stackable Cans: Noble Rey Brewing Co.’s clever beer design takes the stacking feature of cans to the next level. Not only are these cans incredibly eye-catching and well designed, but you can already imagine the drinking games in the works. Definitely a beer that if you didn’t know the brand already, would entice you to buy because of the fun and creative label.
Cartoon: Electric Bear Brewing Company’s bold illustrations combine with a dramatic storyline on each bottle, like Thomas Edison holding a light bulb and a phonograph with sheep flying out of it. Each seems to have a dramatic, perhaps slightly political story behind it, up to the drinker to discern the meaning.
The experience of beer has too long been associated with dusty basements and grungy bars. We’ve seen beer move on from its deep rooted prohibition or red neck connotations (thank you hipsters and sports fanatics), but now we’re witnessing beer enter a whole new era of experience and spill over into events you’d never think would couple with a brew. Here’s what’s trending when it comes to the experience of beer.
Beer races: While their formats vary, combining a solid run with a beer is a new phenomenon. Often combining a 5K or 3 miles with the incentive of a few craft beers, beer runs are motivating people from coast to coast to get fit – and get loose. BeerFit, for example, operates in Chicago and New York, among other US cities, and focuses on combining running, charity, and beer. They also have the Power Hour, which is a race to see how many one mile loops you can run in an hour. While a post-race beer is a must, running and beer is one trending combination we never thought we’d see.
Beer bikes: Welcome to the new pub crawl and the new city tour! Liberal European cities like Amsterdam have been doing the beer bike for a while, but now North American urban hotspots like Portland are getting on board with their version, the ‘BrewCycle’. The concept? A giant ten man bar on a bicycle, complete with captain and keg, to pub crawl the city. You tap your own beer and the sober driver leads the way.
Beer yoga: Beer and yoga, yoga and beer. It would take the even the unenlightened only a moment to see how a cold brew could relax muscles, lighten moods, and create the cosmic shifts yogis so often seek. Branded as Brewga, Beer and Bend, and Yoga on Tap, the combination of yoga and beer promises to increase camaraderie and community. Of course, you usually do yoga and then have beer. Plus, beer is scientifically proven to improve your yoga practice. One Yoga Journal article quotes research from the Journal of Cereal Science which found, “A Finnish research team analyzed barley grains (a common brewing starch) and beer samples, and discovered ample hordatines, phenolic compounds that may possess big-time antioxidant power. Plus, hordatines have been found to help keep digestion humming (a nice complement to twisting asanas) by triggering smooth-muscle contractions.” Antioxidants and good digestion? Say no more.
Historically, breweries are no stranger to huge shifts as a result of technological advancement. Koelschips, saccharometers, the drum malt roaster, and automatic bottling all invariably changed the taste and brewing process, but what about in today’s technological age? Below, we’ll tackle a summary of the latest in beer technology trends, from cans to apps, and what mainstays are still trending.
Packaging improvements: Click, ssssssssst. Glug, glug, glug. Ahhhh. The sounds of beer. Packaging, canning and bottling are not immune to advancements, and brewers are always striving to improve the experience of their product. The can or bottle can have an effect on the taste so brewers want the packaging that best stores their product.
For the average consumer, a can is a can is a can, but for the brew master, the can or bottle is everything. It’s a part of the experience and can alter the way drinkers indulge. Today’s top of the line cans have a venting system, with a “dual aperture end” (two holes) which make for a smoother, less foamy pour due to better airflow. As well, after a decades-long development process, more and more brewers are now starting to use the reusable airtight lid, to contain carbonation and extend freshness, so drinkers can seal open beers to enjoy later.
Growlers: Along with craft breweries came the resurgence of the growler. Rediscovered in 1989 at Idaho’s Otto Brother’s Brewing Company (which today goes by Grand Teton Brewing), the 64-ounce amber glass moonshine jug was used to bring home fresh beer straight from the brewery, similar to how it’s used today. Growlers allow customers to enjoy fresh beer at home – the perfect cherry on top to a casual night in or a relaxed dinner party. What’s more, selling custom growlers at your craft brewery is a hit with visitors as they are an affordable way to purchase and enjoy beer. They are also a great way to get your label out there and keep customers coming back to fill up.
Recycled Water: As sustainability has become a greater and greater concern for customers, it’s also become a priority for breweries. In an effort to influence Californian policy makers, one brewer completed a pilot project using recycled water (greywater or wastewater) to create a couple pints of IPA in a blind taste test. They used the same Nasa water recycling technology as astronaut Scott Kelly during his year in space, though the beer isn’t slated to hit the shelves quite yet. Another way to recycle water is with EcoVolt by Cambrian Innovation. They use “electrically active bacteria” and “anaerobic digestion” to clean up to 90% of pollutants out of wastewater, allowing breweries to reuse water for cleaning, and to produce methane which can be converted into heat and electricity. It promises to improve water footprints by 40% and allow systems to recover 20% of energy needs.
Carbon-capture equipment: While big breweries might have the budget for carbon capture equipment, lassoing the carbon dioxide created in the brewing process and reusing it in other operations has historically been too expensive for smaller operations, leaving them with no choice but to let that CO2 into the open air. Now, tech companies like CASEQ’s carbon-capture equipment are emerging with solutions for the little guy so that smaller breweries can capture and reuse precarious CO2 in their carbonation process, without the large price tag or the large space requirement to house such an endeavor. Cut space, cut spending, cut impact on the environment? Win. Win. Win.
Beer Apps: We couldn’t have a discussion about technology without touching on digital advancements. No brew is so pure to be untouched by the app world. Whether you choose to partake in the online conversation or not, it’s going to happen regardless. Better to have your say, wouldn’t you say? Here are some apps for every brewer to download and engage in.
- Untappd: Might as well call it Beerbook, this app markets itself as a “socialdiscovery and check-in network” for beer lovers. It allows users to find craft beers and bars based on proximity, see beer trends and what their friends are indulging in.
- Elixr: Elixr allows beer drinkers to rate their favorite beer instead of the bar itself. Users check into the beer they’re drinking, rather than restaurants.
- Beer Buddy: Use a cell phone camera to scan barcodes from bottles, cans, and cases and get the full rundown of the beer’s specific history, alcohol content, taste profile and drinker reviews. They have over 300,000 beers cataloged and if one isn’t, when it’s scanned it gets uploaded into the database.
- Brewery Passport: A beer tour guide, Brewery Passport allows you to search for nearby breweries, collect “stamps” for breweries you’ve visited, and see beer related events in your area.
- Next Glass: Users rate beers and get suggestions for their next pint based on their preferences and their taste profile.
In the last few years, the beer market has changed drastically. We’ve seen the exponential growth of the craft beer market, the dominance of IPAs, and increased tastes for radlers, nitro, and ciders. Microbreweries have become a market favorite, pushing big brewery staples out the door. This is likely why 2015 and 2016 have seen a ton of mergers, as the largest breweries gobble up craft breweries in an effort to regain market share. In addition to this, China has emerged as a beer loving country, with industry growth projected at 45% by 2017, moving ahead of the United States as the largest beer producer according to value. In 2017, flavors are getting wilder, labels are getting more creative, experiences are more exciting, and the industry itself is booming, and with it, taking on more sustainable responsibility.
Raise a glass – it’s an exciting year for beer!