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Top Emerging Beer Styles for 2019

So much beer, so little time.

It almost makes one nostalgic for the days when there were only a handful of craft breweries and even fewer that engaged in wide distribution. “Keeping up” with the beer scene was pathetically simple, but nowadays we face the challenge of not only keeping up with an exponentially larger number of breweries but also a growing number of categories, styles, and renditions of beers. It’s in that spirit that we take a moment to think about the top emerging beer styles to seek out in 2019.

Some are already firmly established in the minds of craft beer lovers even if they aren’t yet widely available in the marketplace, while others are lurking quietly in the shadows and sporting alien-sounding names. They represent new styles, rediscovered styles, augmented and enhanced styles – and even a return to the most basic styles. Craft beer is anything but static, and keeping up can be exhausting, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Pilsners and Light Lagers
Another style newly recognized in the 2018 BA Style Guidelines would be Contemporary American-Style Pilsner. Now, this isn’t your granddad’s “Fine Pilsner Beer” macro lager, but the kind of Pilsner characterized by Victory Brewing Company’s Prima Pils: bright, grainy, firmly bitter and hop-forward, utilizing either classic American or noble hops. For all of this “newness,” though, we have to reckon with the reality that what’s old will, almost inevitably, become new again. We should expect the trend of craft session lagers – designed to compete with macro lagers – to continue. Whether breweries can sustain steady business with them or not, they may be worth the time and investment to attract new and converted craft beer drinkers – a bet that many production breweries and brewpubs will likely make.

Examples include: Colorado Lager (shown) by Odell Brewing Co., Southside Lager by Arches Brewing, Steamworks Brewing Co. Pilsner, Reuben’s Brews Pilsner and Hoponius Union by Jack’s Abby.

Juicy & Hazy Beers
Among “new” styles, it’s hard not to look at NEIPA and its assorted relatives and expect to see their continued expansion. I know, they’re not really new, but they were just officially recognized as part of the 2018 Brewers Association Style Guidelines (within the “Juicy or Hazy” pale ales, IPAs and Double/Imperial IPA style categories). This finally distinguishes them from more conventional clear, bitter hoppy beers.

These cloudy, less-bitter and prominently hoppy beers have been as out-of-place in the guidelines as they have been popular among craft brewers, but that tension has now been relieved, and there’s no reason to think that they won’t continue their march through the beer world in 2019 – what remains to be seen is if they cement a place in that world, or fizzle out as many others have before them. 

Examples include: The Substance (shown) by Bissell Brothers Brewing Co., Tunnel Vision DDH w/ Citra by Bearded Iris Brewing,  Alpha Abstraction by Wild Leap Brew Co., Juice Machine by Tree House Brewing Co. and Hypnotizer by Night Shift Brewing.

American Wild Ale
American Wild Ales are also continuing to define themselves (and stretch those definitions), as American breweries are shifting away from traditional sour styles and expectations, a trend that should continue in 2019. These new-world sours are being fueled by continuing interest in kettle-souring, expanding Solera and barrel-aging programs and more. Solera beers (beers that are fractionally blended over a lengthy period) are probably the most intriguing, with no two being the same thanks to a process that adds fresh wort to recently partially-emptied barrels. The result is a constantly evolving beer that can develop exotic, vibrant and unique flavors over time.

Examples include: Serene, Kiwi and Sour Reserve by Upland Brewing Co. (shown right), Touch of Brett Mandarina by Alesong Brewing & Blending, The Laurentian Series, Lake Michigan by Speciation Artisan Ales, Shared Waters by Coronado Brewing Co., Nectarine Golden Ale by pFriem Family Brewers.

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