The new year is upon us, and new beers are in the works here at Firestone Walker and beyond.
It’s always exciting to predict where the craft beer industry is headed next. Stylistic trends can shift swiftly, driven both by innovations at the brewing level and by consumers who vote with their palates. From boozy barrel-aged beers to hazy IPAs, pastry stouts to lagers, each year seems to usher in its own trends.
So what are the next big things in craft in 2023? We caught up with Brewmaster Matt Brynildson for the “Top 5 Craft Beer Trends” that he sees gaining ground this year.
1. Cold IPA
Cold IPA is an emerging subset of the IPA style that is gathering momentum heading into 2023. This includes our own Hopnosis IPA, which blends West Coast character with Cold IPA brewing techniques. By definition, a Cold IPA is fermented with lager yeasts at cooler temperatures, creating a crisp and crushable beer with a clean hop profile. Some also contend that a Cold IPA must include adjuncts (flaked rice or corn) in the. mash to achieve the style’s signature dryness. But at Firestone Walker, we do it with an all-malt recipe while employing mashing techniques that achieve the same effect.
“Cold IPAs continue to carve out their own niche and the style is gaining name recognition, so I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon,” Matt said.
2. Czech-Style Lager
“In the last five years, there’s been an increasing interest back into lagers, and specifically Bohemian and Czech-style lagers,” Matt said. “You’re even seeing breweries across the nation that are specializing in these types of lagers.”
Matt notes that Czech-style lagers are differentiated by their bigger malt backbones, which can also support an elevated hop profile. Some recent examples have come from our Venice Propagator R&D brewhouse, including Dabbling In Decoction, Weekend In Prague, and 12 Degrees Of Pale Lager.
Matt sees a bright future for Czech-style craft lagers in the U.S., not only for their timeless drinkability, but also the traditional presentation that accompanies them – including a distinctive wide-mouth mug and “the art form” of how they are poured.
3. West Coast IPA
What’s old is new again as the West Coast IPA style is once again on the rise – but with a few modern twists. The West Coast style is what originally put IPAs on the map, but it later got crowded out by the ascendance of Hazy IPAs.
Said Matt, “The pendulum swung really far away from the West Coast style, but now as I stop by craft breweries and bars along the Highway 101 corridor here in California, I’m seeing a big resurgence in West Coast IPA offerings.”
And as Matt notes, these next-generation West Coast IPAs, including our very own Hopnosis, offer a saturated hop character with less bitterness than before, allowing for elevated drinkability.
4. Non-Alcoholic Beers
At Firestone Walker, we have no irons in this particular fire, but there is no doubt that non-alcoholic (NA) beers are trending.
“You can’t ignore the NA side of beer anymore,” Matt said. “It’s hard to find examples that truly taste like a full-flavored craft beer, but they’re getting closer.”
Matt also notes that beverage subsets such as hop waters and CBD tonics are also energizing the NA trend. “Hop waters offer an interesting and refreshing NA drinking experience,” Matt said. “Plus, they provide an alternative use for hops, and I’m all for anything that supports hop growers.”
5. Sessionable Adjuncted Stouts
Matt admitted that this one might be more a case of “wishful thinking,” but he believes that “sessionable adjuncted stouts” are on the verge of trending.
“Sessionable adjuncted stouts” is a fancy way of saying lower-alcohol stouts that include added flavor components, such as our Mocha Dolce Nitro Stout brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and roasted coffee beans.
“I think there’s some movement away form the big, sweet, and boozy pastry stouts, but brewers are applying what we’ve learned from these beers to create more drinkable and balanced stouts with some really interesting flavors,” Matt said.