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Bored by IPA? Here Are the Craft Beer Trends to Crush in 2016
Foaming at the Mouth, Joshua M. Bernstein’s hopped-up adventures in the ever-expanding universe of beer. And yes, he would like another round, please.
Here’s how big America’s brewing scene has ballooned: Even if you visited one brewery daily, it’d take 11-plus years to hit the country’s 4,269 beer makers—the highest number in American history, according to the Brewers Association.
With so many brewers, and only so much liver, it’s simply impossible to sip every beer. To distinguish themselves with flair, breweries are digging deep into the wardrobe of flavor. Last year that meant
What will 2016 bring? Let’s gaze into our boozy crystal ball:
These German Beers Are Going to Be Big
A decade back, Germany’s
lemony, acidic Berliner weisse and tart ’n salt-sprinkled gose (“goes-uh”) were essentially extinct worldwide. But with beer, as in fashion or food—looking at you, stone-washed jeans and Brussels sprouts—what’s old and overlooked is thrillingly new.
Photo: Danny Kim
This year, these highly refreshing, food-friendly styles (they sing with seafood) are poised to break wide. The best beer-geek shops regularly stock Westbrook Gose and Anderson Valley‘s The Kimmie, The Yink, & The Holy Gose, as salty and acidic as Andrew Dice Clay.
Now, these German old-timers are poised to become supermarket staples thanks to Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, a gose gone citrusy with grapefruit, and both Bell’s Oarsman Ale and Leinenkugel’s gently sour BeerGarten Tart. These Berliner weisse–style beers are training-wheels sours to help you appreciate the pucker.
IPA Lovers, Meet These Dry-Hopped Sours
Like tattoos, IPAs are addictive, and one never enough. They’re everywhere, offered in every imaginable flavor and form. There’s the wild IPA, fermented with Brettanomyces yeast, tasting—in the most amazing way—of citrus and tropical fruit sipped in a funky cheese cellar; white IPA, spiced with coriander and orange peel; and even coffee IPA, buzzing with beans. This year, the biggest breakout sub-style is the dry-hopped sour.
It’s a relatively low-alcohol or moderate-strength beer, typically turned tart with Lactobacillus (the bacteria that morphs milk into yogurt) and highly dosed with tropical, citrusy hops such as Citra or Amarillo. The results are transfixing, brightly acidic, and overloaded with lush aromas, like a boozy, barely sweet juice box for adults. New Belgium pioneered the style with Le Terroir, a fall release, but look for Evil Twin’s just-canned Sour Bikini andLagunitas’ Aunt Sally. They’re what you want to drink when it’s 70 degrees outside, knuckles deep in a bag full of fatty, salty chips or smearing a cracker with a slice of mild, creamy brie.
Catch a Cold (One)
Despite the bitterly glorious rise of the IPA, America is still a lager-guzzling nation. That’s understandable. Lagers hit that home run of refreshment and restrained ABV, crowd-pleasers suited for BBQs, baseball games, and beach visits alike. Craft brewers typically leave long-aged, cold-fermented lagers to the domain of multinational breweries.
But now, as craft breweries grow in popularity and expand their physical space, many have made the shift toward sessionable, easier-drinking beers, embracing the once-maligned lager. If you regularly crush Corona and Tectate, try 21st Amendment’s Mexican-style El Sully or Deep Ellum’s tortilla chip–ready Neato Bandito, while Devils Backbone’s toasty-sweetVienna Lager is the new best friend to burgers and pizza.
Photo: Courtesy of Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
Hops Head Down Under
Farmers in the Pacific Northwest, where most of America’s hops are grown, can’t meet demand for their hops heaped with flavors and aromas of grapefruit and mangos, peaches, and papaya. As a runaround, brewers are increasingly looking to Australia and New Zealand.
Hop scientists and farmers have cultivated hyrbid varieties such as piney and pineapple-y Vic Secret; floral, star anise–accented Ella; Waimea, evocative of pine needles and tangelo; and earthy, lychee-like Topaz.
To go Down Under without springing for a plane ticket, grab Oskar Blues’s new year-round IPA, which exclusively uses Southern Hemisphere hops, orSanTan’sMoonJuice. It’s an interstellar celebration of Australia’s passionfruit-esque Galaxy hops and New Zealand–grown Nelson Sauvin, tasting a bit like Sauvignon Blanc wandering in the beer aisle. Also tryFlying Dog‘s freshly released Ella imperial IPA (named after the Australian variety), tasting like peaches gnawed in a garden.
Meet the Foeder
By now, aging beer in oak barrels that once contained, say, bourbon or Chardonnay is old hat. Having mastered that tactic, which infuses the alcohol’s flavor into the beer, brewers are turning to foeders (“food-ers”), a colossal wooden vat typically used to age wine. The massive vessels are often used to create wild and sour beers, with the larger volumes allowing brewers to pull off a portion and blend with younger beers. It’s youth meets funk, Bruno Mars channeling Parliament/Funkadelic.
Foeders have spread coast to coast, utilized at North Carolina’s Wicked Weed, where the blended Fille de Ferme is aged with honeysuckle and orange peel, summertime with a tart, wild edge. Colorado’s Crooked Stavemakes a range of foeder-aged beers, including the vinous Surette, gone rustic with rye and spelt.
Drink Your Oats
While oats have long lorded over breakfast, brewers have increasingly been adding the a.m. fave to beer, lending a lustrous, silky quality and mouthfeel as creamy as a whole-milk latté. Oats have traditionally starred in stouts such as Rogue Shakespeare and Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, but now they’re rolling into highly hopped ales.
You’ll find the grain in Bissell Brothers‘ dankly smooth and deliciously addictive the Substance, Lagunitas’ Equinox “pale oat ale,” and Bell’s fantastically named Oatsmobile Ale, a fruity and tropical session beer ready for a test-drive this month. No one’s judging if you crack a can after breakfast.