Classic beer styles were revived, new beer styles were solidified, pint glasses got sophisticated and everything got sour. In a good way. It was a big year for craft beer. Here is a look at our favorite Beer Trends of 2014.
It’s salty, it’s sour, it’s tart and it’s so hot right now. I’m talking about the Gose, a tart wheat beer that incorporates spices and a kick of salt for a puckering, but refreshing, low ABV summer-friendly brew. The Gose started trickling into the American craft beer scene a few years ago, but 2014 should be considered its official coming out party. Westbrook’s Gose gained popularity, the NC Brewers Guild brewed its own Gose this year, Anderson Valley put their oddly named Gose (The Kimmie, the Yink, and the Holy Gose) into a can, and upstarts like Creature Comforts and Off Color Brewing gravitated toward the ancient German style.
Take your standard growler and add a CO2 cartridge and a little tap and whammo, you’ve got yourself a personal keg that keeps your precious craft beer cold, fresh and most importantly, mobile. That’s the premise GrowlerWerks took to Kickstarter asking for $75,000 of financial support for their uKeg pressurized growler. The people responded to the tune of $1,559,525. And the uKeg isn’t the only growler/keg system on the market. You’ve got the GrowlTap, which turns any growler into a mini keg, or the Drink Tank, which comes with a pressurizing keg cap.
No offense to Toby Keith, but the red solo cup is so college frat party circa 2002. I’m no beer snob, but I do think craft beer belongs in a better receptacle than a plastic cup coated in red dye #9. So I love the fact that companies like SiliPint stepping up and offering something with a bit more class. And they’re not alone. MiiR makes a slick, stainless steel Tall Boy Pint Cup, and Steelys makes a sweet double-wall pint cup. Finally, you can put the red solo cups down, people.
Raise your hand if you’re a brewery and you didn’t come out with a session IPA this year? Anyone? Anyone? Seriously, session IPAs have to be one of the fastest growing segments of craft beer. Pretty much all of the big boys are in the game now. Stone has Go To IPA, Firestone Walker released Easy Jack, Lagunitas has given us Daytime IPA. And your local brewery around the corner? Yeah, chances are they have a hoppy IPA under 5% now too. So feel free to have a beer with lunch. Unless you’re a doctor.
Here’s how the legend goes: It’s Germany, circa 1920-something. A brewpub along a popular long-distance cycling route can’t meet the demand from all the thirsty cyclists jonesing for a mid-ride beer. The crafty pub owner starts putting lemon soda in the beers to stretch out his stock, and boom, the Radler is born. Some 90+ years later, and the Radler is back, and it’s refreshing as hell. And by “back,” I mean a handful of breweries are making this style of beer, most notably, Sixpoint Brewery. And honestly, half of the craft beer world loathes the Radler. I don’t know why. Because there’s juice in it? Because this beer also helps fight scurvy? And quenches your thirst? And fights scurvy? Sounds awesome to me.
I’m not saying sours are more popular than IPAs, I’m just saying sours have momentum. And momentum is everything, sports fans. Some of the most exciting young breweries in the country are dedicating the lion’s share of their resources to sour beers (I’m looking at you, Wicked Weed; Side Project) while others are simply only producing sours (hello, Crooked Stave). The big boys aren’t ignoring the trend either—even Sam Adams released their Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru this year. Wild yeast is taking over, which is ironic because wild yeast really will take over if you let it.
Pretty soon, all of the master brewers in the U.S. will join hands and sing “Kumbaya.” At least, that’s the sense I get after this heart-warming year of collaborations. New Belgium kicked it up a notch with their collaborative Lips of Faith series, Sierra Nevada literally invited every brewery in America to join in on the fun with their Beer Camp tour—producing a dozen collaborative brews in the process, Stone Brewing Co. found inspiration south of the border and from a talented home brewer to create a killer stout…and don’t get me started on the interesting chef/celebrity/band collaborations that hit this year. Ladies and gentlemen, we have world peace. At least in the craft beer world.
Don’t get me wrong—carbon dioxide is a perfectly fine gas. Some of my favorite beers are carbonated solely with carbon dioxide. There’s nothing wrong with that. But nitrous oxide is so smooth. It’s like hanging out with Lando Calrissian. And there have never been more options for beers gassed with nitro than we have today. Oskar Blues canned Old Chub with a nitro widget, Left Hand Brewing hosted their inaugural Nitro Fest where 21 breweries showed up with velvety beers, and just about every craft brewpub worth its salt has at least one nitro option on draft. Lando would be pleased.
Here’s the scenario: You’re hanging out in a public park with some friends. Maybe there’s a Frisbee involved. Some dogs playing fetch. Anyway, you’re thirsty and you wish there was a bar there and…boom! A truck rolls up with taps and starts serving pale ales. Pop up beer gardens are sprouting across the country. In Pittsburgh, a coalition of breweries and bars banned together to create Tapped, which sets up spontaneous beer gardens in neighborhoods all over town. Sprecher Brewing, in Wisconsin, rolled their renovated tap trucks into local public parks this past summer. I’m guessing we’ll see a lot more of these pop up beer gardens in 2015.