Brewing the future

Welcome to our annual 'trends' issue.

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We love our annual ‘trends’ box – not only does it give us a chance to big up our favourite (and occasionally under-appreciated) styles, it also invariably generates a lot of mail telling us we’ve got it wrong. In that spirit, let’s dive in.

There’s obviously a good representation from the hazy boys and girls here – a trend that many pundits predicted would wither on the shelf like so many bottles of brut IPA, but which has pretty quickly become the norm. Just as well that there are plenty of interesting variations on the theme, with Thornbridge’s Ravenna Hazy Pale, Magic Rock’s Murk Life Balance, New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger and Gweilo’s straight-up New England IPA showcasing different facets of this ever-evolving phenomenon.

Speaking of evolution, brewing science continues to broaden our experience in 2022. In Siren’s In With the Neo session IPA, we find some of the coolest new hops on the planet, all cultivated from Neomexicanus. Previously considered too wild and aromatic, this family of hops have been seized by craft brewers with both hands, and celebrated for their punchy notes of mango and peach, but also for more outré coconut and vanilla aromas. Likewise, Buxton’s DDH pale features some of the newer experimental Slovenian hops, which have long been favourites of Ferment; we love their slight linseed oiliness and fragrant, grassy, elderflower notes. 

Back to Siren, we’re pleased to see it’s continued its experiments with nitrogenated beers, though whether this is in the spirit of adventure, or a reaction to the (ironic) global lack of CO2 for carbonation, is unclear. In either case though, its sumptuous nitro stout on oak chips is an absolute belter, and really shows what a creamy nitro serve can do with the right beer.

On the other side of the coin, we’ve written before about the idea of ‘craft fatigue’, in which drinkers hit a certain point in their journey and hanker not for extreme flavours or new feats of brewing madness, but for a more subtle, gentle drinking experience. We’ve seen this with the rediscovery of quality lager, and the gradual shift back toward IPA styles with a little balancing bitterness. But there’s also renewed interest in well-brewed traditional British styles, and we’re delighted to have Bristol Beer Factory’s superb mild – arguably the trad style with the toughest sell among the craft crowd – demonstrating why nostalgia may be 2022’s hottest trend.

Of course, not all trends are around innovations in brewing or even our shifting taste in style. 2021 saw seismic changes in beer culture, most notably around challenging the often unconscious perception that beer is primarily for straight white men.

Our collaboration with Aberdeen’s Fierce Beer and the US-led Brave Noise collective is brewed in solidarity with all women who have found the beer world a less than welcoming place (even at times downright threatening). We’ve been honoured to work with Brienne Allan on this project, whose @ratmagnet Instagram account shared many harrowing stories and prompted a period of soul-searching and difficult questions for all of us in positions of influence. Proceeds from this brew will go to The Drinks Trust, which helps hospitality workers of all genders fight for a safe and equitable workplace.

We’re also delighted to feature a collaboration between Dutch brewery Two Chefs and The Vengaboys; a milkshake IPA called Gender Fluid. Released for Coming Out Day 2021, it’s a joyful brew that, just like the Vengabus, welcomes everyone who likes to party. Proceeds from this brew will go to causes selected by COC Nederland, the world’s oldest LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

On page 14, we have a one-on-one interview with the sensational Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, founder, head brewer and all-round megastar in charge at Johannesburg’s Tolokazi brewing. Leading the way among a new generation of Black African professional brewers – and celebrating the historical role of women in African brewing – Apiwe has kindly provided her pilsner flavoured with sorghum, a traditional South African ingredient that has become highly sought after in global craft brewing circles.

We’re even venturing into territory that I don’t understand at all, in the form of an ‘NFT’ beer from Salt and Hong Kong brewery Gweilo, brewed exclusively for Beer52. My ill-informed interpretation is that this beer puts you in the hat to win a ‘non-fungible token’, a piece of digital art which – although it can be endlessly copied – has value because its ownership can be authenticated via blockchain (the same technology that cryptocurrencies run on). The holder of the NFT is also entitled to a brewery tour and other goodies, and the beer itself is quite lovely. These upsides I can understand.

And that’s just the start of it, so savour every can and bottle, because each one is a sip of our glorious future. Which in some cases is also our glorious past. And possibly only exists in the blockchain.

Illustrations: Lena Yokoyama

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