5 New Beer Styles We Love
Sour beers, hibiscus beers, imperial pilsners — there's a lot to love in the craft beer market
As the craft beer industry evolves, beer styles are maturing. Beer style trends have emerged that are so much more complex than just trying to make a super hoppy beer or one that can be classified as the most alcoholic. It's an exciting time in the beer world and the best part is trying all the new beers and styles that define them. While these are just a few of the up-and-coming beer styles in the beer world these days, brewers are innovating every day. There will be new and bold styles coming out of the craft beer industry this year. If you see any you're not familiar with, let us know — we can always learn a thing or two about new styles as well.
So what are the emerging beer styles worth your attention right now? Here are five to keep an eye on.
American-Style Black Ale or Black IPA: A controversial style, the Black IPA (India Pale Ale) also known as India Black Ale and also known as Cascadian Dark Ale has been the subject of some debate. Reportedly the first of its kind was brewed up at the Vermont Pub & Brewery by legendary brewer Greg Noonan. The beer gets its signature flavor from Northwest hops. The Brewers Association added the style, characterized by its extremely hoppy flavor, to their guidelines, referring to it as an American-style India Black Ale in 2010. But the name is still in question (and as the White IPA makes its way into the market, it's going to get even more confusing). When the term Black IPA first popped up, beer lovers felt that it was a little contradictory. How could something be both black and pale? On the other hand, others prefer India Black Ale but at federal labeling authorities have rejected this name in at least one instance. And more recently, brewers have been using the term Cascadian Dark Ale. Regardless of what it's called, it's a solid and unique style that's getting a lot of love from breweries and beer drinkers alike.
Two to try: 21st Amendment Back in Black
Gose and Other Sours: While by no means a "new" beer classification, both gose and other sour beer styles are getting a bit of a revitalization of late. Beer drinkers who've been fans of these beers have been few and far between but Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver told Time Out New York that he believed the popularity of the beers would really take off in 2013. Sour beers are often acidic and tart and incorporate wild yeasts which can sometimes be very difficult to control (which may be why this style was abandoned for some time). Gose, an old German-style brew has a lemon tartness and is among the family of sour wheat beers. It's recently become a favorite among American craft beer portfolios. It was revived in Germany but got a bit more traction in the USA. Today around 50 breweries make a style of gose. In addition, sour beers in general are making in-ways with craft breweries. With the craft beer industry in full swing, beer drinkers are far more open to different styles. This is likely why these ancient styles are regaining popularity.
Two to try: Barrier Brewing Company Gosilla
Hibiscus Beer: Beers brewed with flowers have been buzzed about for the last few years. The addition of edible flowers can deliver a unique flavor that can't be found in other ingredients. These floral inclusions can also be used to emphasize the grassy hoppyness of a beer. Elysian Brewing uses jasmine in their IPA for a stronger earthy flavor. But hibiscus is getting particularly fashionable with a lot of craft brewers. The flower infuses the beer with a cranberry tartness and a pink hue. Many breweries have adopted this ingredient but it's become associated most often with Canada's Dieu du Ciel Rosée d’Hibiscus which was first brewed in 2006. Other breweries have since brewed with the tropical flower, often using it to complement a saison- or sour-style beer. The use of hibiscus does seem to come from a desire to use more natural ingredients — very similar to the Slow Food movement. It's likely this will be a trend that sticks around as long as there's a demand for great flavor.
Two to try: New Belgium and Dieu du Ciel Heavenly Feijoa (a collaboration)
Kombucha Beer: Much in the same way that brewers use flowers to add a natural but unique edge to complement their beer, Kombucha is being blended with beers to boost flavor. And as a fermented drink, this tea seems like a natural fit as a beer ingredient. It adds acidity to beer which can easily enhance the right beer. It's typically best when brewed with sour styles given it's tendency toward tart and since we already determined that sour beers are gaining popularity, sours with Kombucha are more than likely to be a favorite among that group. The tea itself has experienced a surge of popularity recently. It's believed that kombucha imparts a lot of healthy benefits and some believe it to be a great hangover treatment as well since it has a trace of alcohol in it. And while most brewers who use the tea are more concerned with flavors, it doesn't hurt to have another reason to drink beer: health benefits. For the last few years, a few brewers have been blending beer with Kombucha — and some Kombucha makers have even delved into beer brewing — but it's gone under the radar. As other breweries pick up this process, it's sure to catch on with the beer-loving crowd.
Two to try: Rogue Chipotle Ale
Imperial Pilsners: In the 1800s, if a beer was labeled as "imperial," it meant it was an English stout getting shipped to Russia's Imperial Court. The Russian Imperial Stout was a higher alcohol beer, usually more than 9 percent ABV, preferred by Catherine the Great. But over the years, brewers have adopted the term "Imperial" and attached it to the stronger versions of their own beer styles. And that's the case with the Imperial Pilsner, also known as an American Double or Uber Pils. The Imperial Pilsner is a bolder version of a Pilsner style, with a more pronounced malty flavor and robust hoppy bitterness. Typically, the ABV ranges from about 6.5 percent to 9 percent. It's only recently emerged as its own style but has definitely gripped the American craft beer market already.
Two to try: Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning