2016 Beer Trends

Michael Donato, January 27, 2016

Eno wrote about the rise of fruit beers, in particular Grapefruit Sculpin type clones. That’s certainly a growing trend for 2016, but what else?

Your Father’s Root Beer
Alcoholic soda, or alcopops, are a gimme. Not Your Father’s Root Beer, owned by the makers of Four Loko, was a huge success in 2015 and other companies will try to really capitalize on that market this year. We’ve already seen Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale, and various other hard root beers. I saw a bunch of others at the store last week too, from black cherry to orange. 

Coffee and Cream Beers
One of the best beers I’ve had so far in 2016 is Carton’s Irish Coffee. This isn’t a new beer, but it’s hard to get. It’s basically a coffee and cream stout, something we’re seeing a lot more of. I’ve previously enjoyed a Coffee and Cream stout from Kuka, and Sixpoint is coming out with one soon too. Coffee ales have been popular for years, and it’s a little surprising it’s taken brewers so long to come up with beer-lattes. Blattes? 

Defining Black IPAs
One of the emerging beer debates that I’ve started to notice regularly is complaints over Black IPAs. I don’t like to stress too much about whether a beer meets certain style criteria as long as it tastes good, but there’s an importance in knowing, roughly, what a beer is going to taste like. The BJCP guidelines for a black IPA describe it pretty much like a regular IPA: Hop forward with the malt playing a supporting role. The blacker malts shouldn’t have the bitter roasty notes they do in a stout but with the beer world often being hop-obsessed, hoppy stouts are getting classified as black IPAs and it’s confusing.

2016 will see a push to really embrace the real Black IPA, because complementing a nice IPA with those rich chocolatey flavors makes a terrific beer. There’s a similar trend growing with the true meaning of saison, but 2016 isn’t the year we really break that down. 

Breweries will close
We’ve got a record number of breweries in America now, and while we’re still way behind in the brewery to people ratio, that’s a lot of breweries. I’m not suggesting the so-called bubble is about to burst, but we will see some of the middling breweries close their doors. Beer has been trendy long enough for people to have invested in a pipe-dream, and for that investment to have turned out poorly because beer has been trendy long enough for the consumer to stop being drawn to every new beer and brewery. It’s not as easy as just throwing together a quality IPA, a stout, and a few other interesting beers you like and succeeding. Even tap rooms that try to keep it mostly local have more than enough options to choose from. 

As a result, breweries will close that can’t keep up. With this many breweries there are also that many more brewing jobs, and talented brewers that want to do something different than their owners or investors will jump ship. Owners might decide to close up shop as things start to fail around them. 

Nitro Beers
This is another obvious one, but we’ll have a lot more nitro beer options in 2016. Sam Adams is in front of this trend, but the problem is a lot of them will be bad or uninspiring. Nitrogenated beer is an interesting thing, and it’s certainly an amazing addition to many stouts, but it’s not really something that needs to be done to every beer. We’ll be subject to some of that experimentation this year, and hopefully some interesting things will come out of it, but a lot of it’s going to be off-putting.

I had the Guinness Nitro IPA last year and while I did like it, it wasn’t quite what you look for in an IPA. Conversely, the Maine Beer Co’s Mean Old Tom I had on nitro was absolutely amazing. Perhaps once we calibrate our expectations a little more and start to understand what the gas does to different styles we’ll be more amenable to drinking them, but for now we’re going to have to weed out the bad ones. 

The inundation of alcopops is inevitable, and Sam Adams is pushing their nitro beers already, but we’ll see if the other trends really come to pass. Either way, with more and more breweries trying to distinguish themselves we’re bound to see some interesting beers and experiments.

Michael can be found on Twitter and Untappd and is looking forward to the inevitable Root Beer Float beer on Nitro. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.