5 Craft Beer Trends to Watch in 2018

BY Courtney Huckabay
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"What does 2018 have in store for beer?" the editors at FSR Magazine asked leaders in the craft beer segment. "They say the future carries so much promise. They gazed into the crystal growler and saw what trends are fermenting for 2018."

Getting Lost in the Craft Beer Haze

"The New England IPA, the hazy, often opaque brew with generous hopping and a creamy mouthfeel, arguably was one of the most-​talked-​about styles of 2017. So, where is that style headed in 2018?" Jeff Cloletti wrote in FSR.

John Holl, author of the American Craft Beer Cookbook and senior editor of Craft Beer & Brewing, hopes the beers grow up a bit.

I would like to see a better refining of the New England IPA process,” Holl says. “I don’t mind hazy beer and I don’t mind beer that has to be consumed sooner than others. But a lot of brewers have been going for the aesthetics, the way it looks, rather than focusing on flavors, focusing on nuance."

Diehard craft beer drinkers will want to know about the NEIPA and where to get it! The newest AudienceSCAN research revealed 15% of American adults enjoy craft/​microbrewed beers at least once a week.

Fruitful Endeavors

"Fruit in beer has long been a polarizing concept for beer drinkers, but now, it seems, brewers and consumers are taking fruit beers a bit more seriously—and the results have been world-​class. From tart berry–accented Berliner Weisses to fruit juice–enhanced IPAs, brewers are discovering innovative ways to complement and amplify flavor and aroma, with notes characteristic of those classic styles."

"Certain American hop varieties have been famous for their tropical, citrusy elements, and brewers have been drawing upon the actual fruits that those hops emulate for an entirely new drinking experience. “The fruited IPAs is where we’re really seeing some resonance,” says Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, which represents America’s small brewers. “There are mango IPAs, pineapple IPAs—you get brewers talking about the [fruit-​like] character of certain hops. And then some are using fruits in place of those hops because they want that fruit-​like character.”

Featuring these fruity varieties at festivals, and promoting them, could drive traffic and increase attendance. The latest AudienceSCAN research reported 44% of Craft Beer Drinkers plan to attend beer/​wine festivals this year!

Sour Finds Balance

Some in the industry have said “sour is the new hoppy,” but it’s not like the former is going to replace the latter anytime soon. But sour beers have found a more-​or-​less permanent place alongside the IPAs of the world. Brewers are bringing a bit more nuance into their sours, opening the door to a much wider cross-​section of the beer-​drinking population.

I think we’ll see balanced, well-​made ‘sour’ beers work their way into the mainstream,” says Garrett Oliver, vice president and brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, author of The Brewmaster’s Table, and editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer.

Local Craft Beer Pride

Expect to see more brewers focusing on their own backyards and mining their own immediate locales for inspiration. “We’ll see the continuation of brewers embracing regionality, making beers that even non-​craft drinkers can identify with because of geography,” Holl says.

Buying local and drinking local is important to this audience. Marketing campaigns should reflect any local angle avaliable. The most recent AudienceSCAN survey showed 62% of Craft Beer Drinkers prefer to buy from small, family-​owned or independently owned businesses.

In Session

In the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of the session IPA style, as well as the rise of traditionally low-​ABV offerings like Berliner Weisses. The definition of “session” can be a bit nebulous. Some insist that it only applies to beers with ABVs below 5%, while others are a bit more inclusive and say the term can stretch to 6% ABV. A spring 2017 Nielsen CGA On-​Premises User Survey found that 58 percent of respondents prefer beers that are between 4.1% and 6% ABV (26% preferred between 4.1 and 5%; and 32% chose those between 5.1 and 6%).

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.