The Beer Monkey Column from The Ocelot’s tame beer industry insider…
The world of brewing moves at a furious pace. So, as we journey into the new year, what can we expect to see coming out from our best and most interesting beer pioneers? For what it is worth, here are my top beer tips for the discerning drinker in 2019…
First up I must mention IPA, for all things pale and hoppy will once again dominate craft beer taps the country over. The emergence of the fruitier, murkier New England IPA in the last 18 months has breathed new life into the style and forced brewers to up their game and think more out of the box. So, we are seeing ongoing brinkmanship as people overload brews with outrageous amounts of multiple hop varieties or push through single hop programmes and new hop varieties as well as utilising lactose for smoother mouthfeels.
We will see an increase in sessionable, lower ABV table beers to complement the monstrously high ABV beers that are out there. Brewers are beginning to show off by proving they can load huge flavours into lower ABV beers. Alongside these there will be a huge increase in alcohol free beers. Many I have tried recently have been incredible improvements on Kaliber!
One of the most exciting results of the growth of craft beer is the resurgence of quality lagers. Not only has Pilsner had a new lease of life as craft brewers show the big boys how to brew this beer, we have started to see a variety of other lager styles on bars like the sweeter, more malty Vienna or amazing dark lagers as well as hybrids like Kolsch beers. One of the biggest successes coming into 2019, spurred on by the hazy IPA phenomenon, is unfiltered lagers and Kellerbiers.
Barrel aging beer also started to really hit the scene in a big way in 2018, with brewers snapping up old whisky, rum and wine barrels in which to mature their beers (in a weird twist, the spirits makers started aging their drinks in old beer barrels). Many of these beers will continue to be big Imperial and Milk Stouts, that beautifully complement the tones imparted by the wood and the residual spirit. But we also started to see a lot of barrel aged sours appearing, aged in oak barrels with fruit added, resulting in precise, tart and elegant beers.
Speaking of sours, I think we will continue to witness the revolution in this oldest of brewing traditions. Brewers’ ability to kettle sour with more control than using wild yeasts has allowed them a chance to experiment more, and I think we will see all manner of sour styles with not just fruity flavours and adjuncts, but more spices and herbs and in a more leftfield move, vegetables. Several American brewers have been playing around with tomatoes for example. Sours are interesting for bars as they are great to convert wine and cider drinkers onto beers.
Spices and herbs will not just find their way into sours of course. Brewers are experimenting with these additions in all styles, along with tree sap, coconut, peanut butter, pine needles and almost anything edible you can think of. Coffee beers won’t be going away anytime soon either, although perhaps it is losing some attraction as tea and chai flavours increase. The other by-product of this experimentation is a return to the old European recipes and beers like Belgian blondes that are being updated for modern palates.
Finally, I suspect the new phenomena of Brut beers, those brewed with special yeasts that convert 100% of the sugars into alcohol for a drier, crisper champagne style finish and the use of wine barrels for aging will kick off a whole raft of experimentations in beer to mimic wine flavours and characteristics. Whatever happens, here’s to another great year in beer!