By Crystal Luxmore
This year I joined the flocks of 60,000 beer lovers, brewers, and tastemakers at Denver, Colorado’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF). With over 780 US breweries pouring 3,800 beers, and killer tap takeovers, rare bottle pours and other can’t-miss side events throughout the city — the legendary festival is one of the best places to hunt down beer trends. Here are my Top Five Beer Trends for 2017—and where you can taste them in Canada now.
This hot trend has bubbled up from home brewers who think it’s a brilliant idea to chuck mounds of homegrown hot peppers into their beers. The worst examples taste like a dad’s made his own hot sauce—but with alcohol. Most chilli beers used to be stouts or porters, for a mole-like effect. But these days, brewers are adding heat to a range of golden styles. The best, begin with a really great beer and integrate the chilis for a surprising, fiery warmth in the back of the throat. The Gold Medal in the GABF’s Chilli Beer Category (there were 112 entries) went to upstart Denver brewery, 14er, a group of home brewers-turned-pro who made a saison with cilantro, lime and fresh jalapenos. Silver went to The Contender IPA with chilis, and third was a Jalapeno Cream Ale from Minnesota. Canadian ones to try:
- Honey Habanero, Frank Brewing Company, Tecumseh, ON
- Jalapeno Ale, Garrison Brewing Co., Halifax, NS
- Red Racer Habanero Stout, Vancouver, BC
Think of orange juice in a glass, then add alcohol. Dry, pithy and uber-juicy, so called “Juicy IPAs” were pouring everywhere at the 2016 fest, from Station 26’s Juicy Banger IPA to Left Coast’s Hop Juice. Born of the Vermont-style IPA fame (Head Topper, Sip of Sunshine) trying to nail down the style description of this nascent category is nearly as hazy as the cloudy, sunset-orange beers themselves. Often made with a Vermont ale yeast, and “juicy” hop varietals like Mandarina Bavaria, these brews are also deliberately cloudy thanks in part to brewers hammering them with wheat, oats or even flour. The next iteration? Adding actual juice to the beer, like Samuel Adam’s new “Rebel Juiced” made with Zeus, Mosaic, Mandarina hops and — yes, mango juice. Who knows if the Boston brewery’s juiced-up IPA will take off or jump the shark? But in the meantime we’ve found some naturally juicy ones made here in Canada, for you to try:
- Side Cut IPA, Bridge Brewing Company, Vancouver BC
- Flagship IPA, Steamworks Brewing, Vancouver BC
- Double Orange Ale, and RSMA Unfiltered Brewing, Halifax, NS
- Green Out, Barncat Artisan Ales, Cambridge ON
Growler, meet can. Yup. It’s the crowler. And it’s a damn fine thing. These 32-ounce jumbo cans pioneered by Ball Canning and Oskar Blues are all over the US and are beginning to replace brown jug growlers at brewpubs and breweries across the country. Breweries like them because they don’t have to deal with unwashed growlers, or customers who complain that their beer went flat, or tasted bad, after an opened growler sat in the fridge for five days. Breweries buy a crowler machine and the cans, fill them up with fresh brew and seal them for you right there. (Check out Dayna filling crowlers in this “Sight Glass” video).
So cuddle up with a crowler this fall. Get your fill at these Canuck breweries:
- Frank Brewing, Tecumseh, ON
- Tooth and Nail Brewing Company, Ottawa, ON
- Redline Brewhouse, Barrie, ON
- Banded Peak Brewing, Calgary, AB
- Tree Brewing, Kelowna, BC
- Moody Ales, Port Moody BC
Pucker Up — Kettle Sours
Breweries are finding a quick way to satiate our growing thirst for sour beer. They simply add Lactobacillus bacteria (that zippy, tangy bacteria that ferments yogurt) to cooled wort, before it’s boiled and fermented. Known as kettle souring this process is a shortcut to making sours; It doesn’t require the time, money and risk of infection, which introducing wild yeast strains into a brewery does. Sprinkle in some salt and coriander afterwards, and you’ve got yourself a gose, which also falls into this family. But some sours are better than others—at the GABF the winners contained mind-blowing blends of fruit, herbs and hops — like orange juice and mosaic hops, cucumber and lime, hibiscus, and passion fruit. With very few year-round offerings of sours and goses on our country’s shelves—it’s fair to say we’ll be seeing a lot more of them soon.
- De Witte, Dageraad Brewing, Burnaby, BC
- Hors Série Gose, Les Trois Mousquetaires, QC
- Hacky Sack Kettle Sour, Northwinds Brewery, Collingwood, ON
- Sour Pumpkin Saison, Collective Arts Brewing Company, Hamilton, ON
Wild & Sour Breweries
Not everyone is content to just kettle sour—more and more breweries in the US are going the way of Denver’s Crooked Stave and dedicating their entire production to wild and sour beers. Like Black Project, which started as the “wild beer” side-project for Former Future Brewery, but the brewer/owner loved making these styles so much, he shuttered the first brewery, rebranding to a funk house. These breweries are making beer with the “third family of yeast” Lacto, Pedio, Brett and spontaneous fermentation via coolships.
- Nickel Brook’s “The Funk Lab,” became the first all-wild/sour brewery in the country when it opened this month.
- Half Hours on Earth, a nano-brewery in Seaforth, Ontario deals mainly in sour and Brett strains too, but doesn’t like to be pinned down by style definitions.