5 Trends Brewing in Beer

Written by
Nick Oscilowski
February 16, 2017
Share Share to Instagram

Talking about trends can be a perilous act; what’s new to one person is old news to another; some things stick around while others fade quickly; some trends take time to develop while others arrive with a bang. Often it’s only hindsight which gives us the bigger picture.

But one thing we can be sure of is that Australia is becoming a better place to be a beer drinker. The number of breweries is growing every month. The breadth of selection on shelves and taps is greater than ever before. Increased competitiveness is helping drive up the quality of what’s being produced, as well as encouraging more innovation.

And it’s the weight of all the little trends that are helping the bigger beer scene become great. Here are a handful of things to watch out for next time you’re browsing in the bottle store…

1. Craft beer

What is craft beer? There are plenty of definitions but no clear answer. You can pick from any criteria to come up with a definition that reflects your own view, from ownership to size, provenance to quality, or simply the ethos of the people brewing the beer. Perhaps craft beer simply represents more exciting alternatives in an industry which, for too long, encouraged the status quo?

Whatever it is, craft beer is growing and growing fast; double-digit annual increases by some estimates (albeit off a small base). Anecdotal evidence would back that up: just try and find a small brewery that isn’t struggling to meet demand, toying with expansion, or both. After some false starts in previous decades it seems that craft beer, this time, is here to stay.

2. The coming of cans

From being thrown back at a barbie to raining down from the terraces at bygone sporting contests, canned beer has been around in Australia for some time. Traditionally limited to mainstream brands, smaller brewers are now adopting cans in good numbers and they’re becoming an increasingly common sight on shelves and fridges.

From a quality perspective, there are strong arguments that canning beer is preferable to bottling as no light gets through to damage the beer (yes, exposure to light does reduce the quality of a beer). When it comes to transport, cans are a clear winner as a brewery can fit far more slabs on a regular sized pallet, while if you’re planning on taking a few brews out on your next hike a six pack of cans is far more convenient than a handful of heavy clinking bottles. Expect to see plenty more canned beer in Australia.

One to try:

Young Henrys – Natural Lager

Still want the comfort of cracking open a tinnie and knocking it back without having to contemplate the tasting notes? Try Young Henrys’ light, Aussie-hopped lager for a summer quencher.

3. Australian Pale Ales

Pale ales have become so common that you wouldn’t necessarily think of them as a trend, but broaden your view and consider the rate at which the category has grown in recent years – boosted the fact that just about every brewery has one in its range – and you can only conclude it’s a big one.

As a style, pale ales cover a wide spectrum and often reflect country-specific origins, from highly hopped to malt-dominant. Australia is no exception in having a pale ale interpretation and ours are proving a hit. Typically golden in colour with fruity aromas and flavours from local hops, balanced with a moderate bitterness and easy-drinking nature, they’re an unmistakable step up in character from the average mainstream beer without being a world away. It’s perhaps this crossover appeal, where approachability meets genuine flavour, which has seen their stock continue to rise.

One to try:

Stone & Wood – Pacific Ale

The quintessential Aussie pale from the team at Byron Bay. Seek it out fresh (see below) and there are none finer.

4. Fresh is (often) best

Along with the rapid rise of beers such as pale ales and IPAs which showcase hops, there’s a slower-growing understanding that these styles of beer should be consumed as fresh as possible. Hops are, literally, a delicate flower and their oils and acids (responsible for the fruity and bitter characters we enjoy) are prone to perishing quickly when not stored properly. Light, heat and age are no friends of hops.

Some beers will develop with age and careful cellaring, particularly strong and malt-driven ones, but to get the most from hoppy beers you should drink them as soon as you can. You wouldn’t leave a carton of milk out for days then come back expecting it to be in top shape, so don’t leave your IPA in the back of a warm cupboard for months and expect it to taste like a freshly cut fruit salad what you crack it open.

One to try

Feral – Hop Hog 

This WA brewer is obsessed more than most with quality and treating hops right. Need proof? Look no further that the immaculately balanced Hop Hog.

5. Appreciating the seasons

From food to clothing, there’s a wider interest in provenance these days: where ingredients come from, how they are produced, and who produces them. Beer is no different, with two of its four key ingredients, barley and hops, being agricultural products. Industrialisation has encouraged, and brilliant production techniques have made possible, the expectation that every beer under a particular label should taste the same, no matter when or where it is produced. With wine, as a comparison, seasonal differences are celebrated and they’re discussed as a matter of course; “Is this vintage better than the last?” Fundamentally, beer is no different; the ingredients are grown and harvested annually and they will have a slightly different makeup depending on the conditions in which they grew and those variations, however small, have to be considered by the brewer.

Thanks in main to the emergence of fresher hop beers which use ‘wet’ hops picked straight off the bine, rather than the more common dried pellet form, more people are beginning to appreciate that beer is the end result of nature’s processes, guided a little by man. Watch out for the arrival of ‘harvest’ beers following the next Australian hop harvest in February and March.

One to try

Endeavour - Vintage Pale Ale

Most brewers will use the freshest ingredients by default, but this Sydney based brewing company makes a particular point of promoting the differences in their beers year to year and change all their recipes annually to reflect it.