The 35th Brewers Association beer festival was held in Denver, Colorado, and saw a staggering 60,000 beer nuts visit the show over three days between 6 and 8 October.
Visitors had the chance to sample from 3,800 beers made by 780 small and independent craft brewers, which spread across seven football pitches worth of space.
According to the Brewers Association there are six key craft beer styles serious operators should look out for in 2017, based on the 7,227 beers entered into the GABF competition.
- IPA: The dominant style continues to be IPA, which attracted the highest number of competition entries (312) at the festival
More than 200 of those were Imperial IPAs, along with 169 American-style Strong Pale Ales.
- Traditional and light: Crisp, clean pilsners and lager-style beers also proved popular at the GABF. German-style Kölsch and altbiers, along with American cream ales were the talk of the festival
- Sour beers: From fruit-infused to barrel-aged and dry-hopped, sour beers are continuing to pull the interest of serious beer drinkers, who are also looking for unique tastes, such as smoked sour beers
- Spontaneous fermentation: Spontaneous because they are exposed to natural yeast and bacteria in the air, they also to continue to flourish after packaging, creating beers full of funky flavours. Wild yeasts, such as Brettanomyces, are being used more and more to deliver brews with a difference
- Coffee: The hot black liquid is flourishing in the UK and we’re seeing more porters and stouts produced with a coffee twist. A new coffee category was created at this year’s GABF, which had more than 168 entries
- Wood and barrel-aged: It’s not just whisky and wine drinkers who enjoy the flavours imparted by barrels. More brewers are starting to experiment with barrels that formerly held Tequila, Bourbon, Chardonnay and other wines and spirits
The Brewers Association said: “Innovation and experimentation are rife in US craft brewing circles, with beers made with cannabis, marshmallows, cucumber, pig parts, breakfast cereals and tobacco among the most bizarre.
‘Skill and flair’
At a glance:
Beer trends to watch out for in 2017:
- Lagers and Pilsners
- Sour beers
- Spontaneous beers
- Coffee-flavoured beers
- Barrel-aged beers
“Such beers demonstrate the skill and flair of the brewer and satisfy the beer drinker’s craving for the next new thing, but are likely to remain too niche for the mainstream market.”
However, it’s not just the liquids, according to Graham Richardson, general manager for global beverage importer Heathwick, who is adamant packaging will play a bigger role in beer next year.
Smaller format cans, such as 355ml, are becoming increasingly popular, he said.
“Cans are an increasingly popular packaging option – the beer chills down quicker and stays fresh for longer, cans are more portable and they have a greater on pack area to communicate brand imagery. More and more producers, both globally and domestically, are using the canned option.
“A reluctance to stock cans in premium outlets is starting to shift and we are seeing more ‘high-end’ outlets trialling them. We are also seeing more 22oz/650ml bottle sizes coming in. The 16oz can format is some way off due to pricing issues.”