Got Beer? What’s Next for 2017?

I think we can all agree that 2016 was pretty much a year that should be wiped from history. Even if you actually got your way during this recent, hotly contested election, you have no further to look than the celebrity obituaries to see that we’ve lost some really treasured people. Add in the usual round of war, famine, plague and death that haunted us the last 366 days, and it’s hard not to want to find an arsenic saison for the quaffing.

Well, the good news is that at least there are some wonderful things coming down the pike on the craft beer front, at least for those of you who, like myself, are desperate for something new and different. I said last year that the palate fatigue from all the extreme hopping would cause the industry to swing back in the other direction and that seems to be just starting to happen.

As I write this, the top three beers on BeerAdvocate are stouts. Oh, glorious day! Thick, sweet, savory, dark and roasty, glory be unto you!

It’s not that I don’t love IPAs, and you’ll never hear me complain that a beer is too hoppy, but it’s getting so difficult to find a nice malty porter or a mellow, easygoing red ale that I was starting to wonder if I would ever taste something besides floral, citrus, amber-red brews of ludicrous IBUs.

I’m actually surprised, because at one time looking for an IPA when there was snow on the ground was the height of folly, and a clear sign that you were an unwashed heathen in the craft beer world, an uncouth outsider who dared to eat salad with the wrong fork. Now, trying to find a winter beer that isn’t stuffed with centennial or magnum hops is like hunting for the single nugget of verified fact in the nightly news.

But I sense we’ve finally crested the wave, and from here on out we can start playing with the other three major ingredients that make our favorite beverage. More and more brewers are experimenting with yeast strains since the sour/lambic/gueuze trend took off, and it would be interesting to see brewers fiddling with the mineral content in water to see what flavors they could coax from the simple molecules and combinations of carefully selected impurities. Who couldn’t use a little more iron in their diet?

Personally, I’d like to see a comeback from lagers. I’d like to see the sweet, crisp, interesting beers aged for months until they achieve a rare perfection. The quicker fermentation rates of ales makes them a better choice for turnover rate and profitability versus time, and since IPAs have been a strong trend for nigh on a decade now, they’re a pretty safe bet for brewers that want to be able to pay their bills. But by and large, this industry is not about the most product for the least time and money. We already have that from the big three. But a nice, long-aged lager like perhaps a marzen or a bock could come along right now and really quench what people are thirsting for. More to the point, if the new trend is yeast strain experimentation, then lager yeast is a largely untapped well.

So will 2017 finally be the year that we throw IPAs away? Gosh, I hope not. But we could stand to tone it down a bit, and maybe be a little less rushed to capture the next big bitter bite. I don’t want IPAs to go anywhere, just to take a breath and maybe get their lives together. Move out of their parents’ basement and take a chance by asking out that attractive barista at the coffee shop.

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