Beer Trends to Watch for in 2017

IPAs and Sours Top the List

The craft beer revolution continues to expand throughout BC at an unprecedented pace. Along with all the new breweries that are opening, it seems like one or two new trends take the beer world by storm each year. A couple years ago, everyone got excited about radlers, and last year kettle sours were all the rage. IPAs never seem to go out of style, but they do shift as brewers discover new hop varieties or brewing methods. So what will beer lovers be excited about in 2017?

I spoke to a few different brewers about the trends they are watching, but first I checked in with Dustan Sept of Beer Me BC ( whose annual BC Craft Beer Survey is a great source of information on what BC beer lovers are thinking about. He confirmed that IPA is still the most popular style by far, chosen by 36% of nearly 1,500 respondents compared to the next highest, stouts and sour ales, which each came in at 9%.
Sept says, “As craft beer drinkers progress, they get more accustomed to subtle flavours. Not everything has to be turned up to eleven.”
Acknowledging the recent surge of interest in sour beers, Sept believes “the sour beer category will move to a more traditional format. Breweries are investing in [traditional] sour programs.”

“The hazy, fruity IPA in a can is going to be super popular,” Mills predicts.

Unlike kettle sours, which brewers can produce in about five weeks, traditional sour beers age in barrels for a year or more. Because of the length of time and space they take up in a brewery, barrel-aged beers are relatively expensive when they are released, usually in the $12-$20 range for 650ml bottles.
“It’s a special-occasion beer, not the one you’ll drink every day,” Sept describes. “It’s taken a year or two to make that beer as opposed to five to seven weeks.”
At Four Winds Brewing in Delta, producers of Nectarous Dry Hopped Sour, which won Beer of the Year at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards, brewmaster Brent Mills says, “Progressive-style beers are the norm now, which is awesome.” He expects to see more “super fruit-forward IPAs” in 2017, but “the trend might be a little bit away from sour beers, because all of a sudden everyone could make them, so there was an explosion.”
One thing Mills is particularly excited about is packaging, specifically cans. He foresees “more cans, and more of a focus on the branding and packaging with more unique artwork.” Indeed, Four Winds will be canning their Notus series of lower alcohol beers (La Maison Wild Saison, Featherweight IPA and Elementary Lager) in 2017.
“The hazy, fruity IPA in a can is going to be super popular,” Mills predicts.
The East Coast or New England IPA is a cloudy, ultra-fruity variant popularized by Vermont brewery The Alchemist’s Heady Topper IPA. Given that Steamworks Brewing’s cloudy and fruity Flagship IPA won Best in Show at the BC Beer Awards in October, perhaps this style is poised to be the trendy beer of 2017.
Nelson Brewing’s brewmaster Jerry Grant agrees that the IPA flavour needle is moving towards “more fruity, less bitter.” However, he argues, “Everybody has a super hoppy IPA, so breweries are looking to set themselves apart,” perhaps with “more traditional styles like Maibocks, ESBs and Altbiers.”
Parallel 49 Brewing’s Graham With wishes this were true: “I’ve been wanting to see German lagers like what Chuckanut does in Bellingham, but it just doesn’t seem to work here.” Instead, he believes “IPAs will continue to boom, but the fruit IPA is coming up more and more. Passion fruit, grapefruit, anything citrusy, anything that mimics the fruit flavours in the hops.”
Another style to watch for is gose, a tart and salty German style that has been popularized in BC primarily by Driftwood Brewery (Cry Me A River Gose).
“Gose will be big next summer,” predicts Brent Mills. “It crept in a bit last summer, but I think almost everyone will have a gose this year. It’s super easy to drink. It’s the same percentage as a radler, but you can do so many things with it.”
I hope he’s right. It’s one of my favourite styles, especially in the summer when nothing else can beat it as a refreshing patio sipper. No matter what, however, I will guarantee this: more and more consumers will be looking for BC craft beer in 2017, and what excites them most is variety: lots and lots of variety. In other words, if you own a bar, add some taps, and if you own a store, add some more shelves or fridges, and keep them stocked with the newest releases you can get.

Joe Wiebe, the “Thirsty Writer,” is the author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to BC Breweries. Joe is a co-founder and co-producer of Victoria Beer Week and the BC Ale Trail project, and produced the Victoria Beer Map.