2016 was a really interesting year in the craft beer world with new breweries opening and new approaches to brewing. Craft beer drinkers now have more choices than ever before and with the new year beginning we are set for even more diversification and innovation in craft brewing. So then, time to jot down a few predictions for the year ahead.
IPA continues to dominate the market but we can expect to see more variations on the theme. The New England style IPA sweep across America in 2016 so expect to see more of it on these shores this year. “NEIPA” is intentionally hazy or cloudy lending more softness and weight to the mouthfeel while the hops used favour softer tropical fruit with very little bitterness to the finish.
Love them or hate them, fruit infused IPAs were hugely popular in 2016, Fourpure Juicebox and Brewdog Elvis Juice were two stand outs. I don’t see this changing for 2017, except for a wider array of fruits used.
Sour beers have taken a foothold in Ireland and this can only grow in 2017 as more people get turned on to the potential these offer. More diverse beer styles and flavour profiles will go sour this year as brewers push the envelope of what a sour beer is. You can also expect to see a few more hoppy sour beers this year, check out the limited edition Wayfarer from Eight Degrees to see how good these can be. In general I think we will see more experimentation with fermentation, from new styles of kettle sours to more experimental approaches with wild yeasts, Brett and barrel fermentation.
Which brings us on to barrel aging. Whiskey barrel aged stouts have been sought after for the last few years but expect to see more experimentation here again this year both with styles of beers and types of barrels, I think we could certainly see some more wine barrel aged beers this year. 2016 saw a huge increase in the amount of barrel aged beers produced in Ireland, White Hag have launched an ambitious barrel aging program along with some great releases from the likes of Eight Degrees with their Dukes of Burgundy and Dot Brew with barrel aged Champagne beer and Roasted oat stout, to name just two. These great home grown beers together with some truly excellent imports from our American and British cousins show how exciting and innovating barrel aged beers can be.
Well there are a few of my predictions for 2017, for what they are worth. What I can predict with certainty is that I will be surprised by the inventiveness of brewers this year as we are set for a broader range of styles in craft brewing than ever before. Roll on 2017.