Brewing experts say some styles that have gained a foothold among the craft cognoscenti are poised to break out in 2018 among the wider beer-drinking public.

Markham Heid
January 10, 2018

Hoppy, aromatic, emphatically bitter pale ales have long dominated the craft scene. But now that craft has locked down a sizeable share of the marketplace, its focus has shifted to new and experimental styles.

Craft beer has progressed so quickly and with so much fervor that we’ve done a lot of exploring in a very short period of time,” says Matt Simpson, an Atlanta-based certified beer judge, educator, and owner of craft-brewing consultancy.

As a result of all the recent exploration and experimentation, Simpson says he doesn’t expect to see a lot that’s strictly new this year. But he and other brewing experts say some styles that have gained a foothold among the craft cognoscenti are poised to break out in 2018 among the wider beer-drinking public. Here are those styles, and a few delicious examples to try.

Lagers

Light, refreshing, easy drinking lagers dominated the American beer scene for a century. But for years, most craft brewers disdained them—in part because lager, despite its uncomplicated profile, is often trickier and more-expensive to brew than ale. But these crowd-pleasers are poised for a craft-style makeover.

“I think people are yearning for some good, well-made lagers that are clear and clean and drinkable, but that still have flavor,” Simpson says. Others agree.

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“Craft breweries are betting big on this segment coming back, and I expect that this year might be the year for it,” says Philip Breen, assistant manager at Philadelphia’s beer garden. Brewers themselves say the same.

“Lagers will be a major showcase style for many breweries in the coming year,” says Josh Hughes, brewmaster at New York’s .

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Three to try: by Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery,  by Minneapolis’s Surly Brewing Co., and by Brooklyn Brewery.

Sours

Sours (also known as wild ales) have been a fave-rave among serious craft fans for a few years now. But in 2018, you can expect these tart, fruity, funky brews to gain momentum and spill out into the wider beer-drinking public. The term “sour” encompasses a variety of beers—from traditional Belgian lambics and German gose to a whole range of scattershot American offerings. The one thing they all have in common: “These beers are fermented with native yeasts and bacteria similar to those in cheese or yogurt production,” explains Brian Strumke, brewer and owner of New York’s . Usually high in acidity, sours tend to pair well with food, and their depth of flavor and complexity makes them endlessly interesting.

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Three to try: by Austin’s Jester King Brewery, by California’s Russian River Brewing Company, and by St. Louis’s Side Project Brewing  

New England IPAs

Think of this style as a cloudy, floral, fruit-forward cousin of the bitterer West Coast IPAs beer drinkers know and love. “Huge aromatics,” Simpson says. “These are hazy, juicy, dank beers that we’ve seen for a while, and I think we’re going to see a lot more this year.” Sometimes called simply “unfiltered” or “hazy” IPAs, this beer style is undoubtedly gaining steam. “Is it orange juice, a fruit shake, bone broth or beer?” Stillwater’s Strumke asks, only half-joking. He says these beers’ “eye-catching opaqueness” is a major draw, especially in the age of Instagram and “food porn.”

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Three to try: Heady Topper by Vermont’s , by Massachusetts’ Tree House Brewing Company, and by Maine’s Bissell Brothers Brewing Co.

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