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Key trends in craft brewing for 2023

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November 6th, 2022

Written by: Paule Gosselin, columnist for Bière et Plaisirs magazine and author of the blog La Fleur du Malt.

The craze for quality microbrewery beers continues to grow and many people in Quebec are passionate about craft breweries. What trends are the most observed in today’s markets and what are the reasons?

The Pale Ale trend

First of all, many microbrewery enthusiasts are turning to low-alcohol beers in order to focus on the hop experience rather than the intoxicating one. It may sound simple, but there was a time when people tended to drink very strong, bitter, high-alcohol American IPAs. That trend is now gone and has given way to a more focused and specialized search for hops. Instead, the average connoisseur today looks for vibrancy in the hop flavor profile, such as citrus in Citra or raisin notes in Nelson Sauvin. The Pale Ale allows the taster to perceive the presence of the hops without them being hidden behind an omnipresent residual sugar or a very high alcohol content, thus justifying the interest in the Pale Ale. In the same vein, brewers are also producing a large number of nanoIPAs, even beers below 0.5% alcohol, a trend that is expected to increase in the coming years.

The use of native fruit in brewing

Another trend that is emerging and gaining momentum in 2022 is the use of native fruit in microbrewing. The local and proximity production as well as the absolute freshness of the terroir are expressed and valued through the know-how of the brewers. One can think of chicoutai, pimbina, red currant, black currant, saskatoon, sea buckthorn, camerise or cranberry, as well as rhubarb or raspberries, as long as these fruity additions come from the vicinity of their brewing location. The use of these juices, which was previously unknown, is especially popular in microbreweries when coupled with the gourmet table. The result is a rewarding association for the consumer, who discovers a variety of local products and whose taste buds are sure to be delighted. In local breweries, these indigenous ingredients can be found in sour beers, goses, white beers, saisons and some blacks. Generally, brewers freeze these native fruits or berries at maturity when they are at their fullest flavor. This freezing process allows the fruit to release all of its moisture, all of its water, all of its juice; and therefore, all of its flavor!

The search for the perfect barrel-aged beer

Finally, the lover of microbrewery beers also likes to hunt, to search for rare, nesting products. This is indeed the phenomenon observed particularly for Stouts. There is a desire to discover, through the experience of drinking a beer, the most accomplished version of the range. The maturation of a certain part of a brew in barrels attracts the consumer, tempted by the experience of a different beer, matured, ennobled by the passage in barrels. This can be a woody barrel aging such as oak or maple wood, as well as a barrel aging that has contained different wines or spirits. Among the most common refinements, aging in Chardonnay or Riesling barrels, for example, or in bourbon or rum barrels for strong spirits. The final versions of these craft beers become rounder, and more complex; they are ultimately richer, and denser and offer the consumer a more complete taste experience.

Lastly

Other micro-trends are adding to those mentioned above: we are seeing more and more Grape ales, where the grape is at the center of the creation. We are also seeing more beers that merge with the world of cider. In addition, the use of highly aromatic hops is tending to overtake the use of hops as a bittering agent. Along the way, I continue to taste everything and I will come back to you very soon with more observations on the fascinating world of craft brewing! To be continued!

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