Dave Hoops column: Forecasting 2022 craft beer trends
At the start of each New Year, in January, I do some thinking about what’s coming next in the beer world. I do this to stay ahead on trends, mull over new ideas I like and plan what I want to focus on. Here are my thoughts and predictions for 2022.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many beer halls and taprooms across the nation multiple times in the last almost two years, the upcoming trends are a little bit murkier. There will always be a place in the brewery landscape for traditional well-made ales and lagers.
That being said, I see easy drinking and lower-alcohol beers leading the charge this year. Health is the reason for the season and many of us will be making choices more attached to our health. NA beers and low-calorie seltzers will continue strong growth.
Some more thoughts on upcoming and continued trends:
Craft lager beers
About 10 years ago, I predicted the craft lager beer, especially pilsner, would be big. I was a bit too soon, yet I can now say that craft lager beers are indeed a big deal. We will see more and more in 2022. Lager beers are a bit more challenging to brew and take longer, so production costs are higher. The beers taste so good, though! Breweries are finding it worth the extra effort and cost.
Barrel aging achieves new level
Beers aged on wood have become a craft beer standard. Oak barrels from bourbon distilleries are very common. Kentucky law states that bourbon distilled in that state — where now about 88% of all American Bourbon is produced, down from 99% a few years back — can only use the barrel once. That means a bounty for the brewers — we buy them up and age many styles of beer in the wood, gaining deep vanilla notes and complex flavors from the bourbon-soaked wood.
What I think we’ll see moving forward is brewers trying a range of distillery barrels. I’ve brewed with tequila barrels, sherry casks, port casks, red and white wine barrels, Chambord liqueur barrels, brandy and cognac barrels. This doesn’t even scratch the surface. This trend will grow. Look for brewers to blend beer from multiple types of barrels into one beer.
Hazy beers are here to stay. These very popular beers are brewed with an eye to extreme flavor. Brewed well, they are full of fruit notes and aroma. They can be a bit intimidating, as many look like orange juice or a shake. In the last four or five years, these beers have become a movement that beer drinkers are enjoying at an unprecedented level. I will say that West Coast-Style IPA (where I was taught to brew) will always be a standard this year and in the future, I hope.
These last three are personal favorites that I hope make big leaps this year:
Single malt/hop beers
Much like brewing a fine lager, these take more time and skill. Pairing one malt and one hop variety is the art of brewing. Single hop beers are common; I used to brew 12-15 per year. Single malt and hop beers are uncommon. The perfect balance of a malt like Maris Otter paired with the grassy lavender, mild pepper notes of a hop like East Kent Golden would be one example. There are literally hundreds of fun pairings. Watch for these beers.
Chili beers are a passion for me; I brew one full time at our brewery. They seem to have a cult following by a portion of beer enthusiasts — a bigger group than I expected. That’s cool.
Pepper beers do not need to be hot and spicy, however, they do need to feature the aroma and flavor of the chili. They can range from green pepper notes to hints of the ghost pepper. They’re some of the most fun beers to brew as each chili has its own character.
Reinventing classic beer styles
With the influx of sour beers and the IPA and hop explosion, some older styles have been slightly out of the public’s eye. These include styles like Extra Special Bitter, Irish Stout, Porter, Scotch Ale, Brown and Mild Ale, and especially old-school Pale Ale and Hefeweizen.
Many of these wonderful beers are being left by the wayside as brewers try to push the envelope and stretch the boundaries (not a bad thing at all). We should see a comeback this year as more beer drinkers seek a return to these easy drinking classics. I personally feel like the search for a great pale ale will be high on my list this year.
As is my tradition for the annual forecast, I wanted to close with a few trends I personally enjoy that I hope to continue to take off:
- Crystal wheat beers;
- Session everything — lower-alcohol versions of all beer styles;
- Locally sourced raw materials will make a strong statement in many markets.
Happy New Year! May 2022 bring you health and happiness.
Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org .