To get the latest on what’s happening in the big world of beer we surveyed some of the hundreds of brewers that use Unleashed as their brewery inventory management platform – and spoke to some of the beer industry’s leading experts, from merchants and manufacturers, to consultants and authors. Here are their picks for the biggest beer trends around the world.
8 trending beer styles
The beer scene is a hotbed of innovation, with brewers vying to stand out from the crowd. Here are our experts’ top eight trending beer styles.
Meet the “IPL” (India Pale Lager)
Beer nerds have been predicting the renaissance of craft lager for a while, says Michael Donaldson, publisher at the Pursuit of Hoppiness. “But I think these are beers loved by brewers more than punters.”
“Bigger lagers though, or what people call IPL (India Pale Lager) are increasingly popular and we’ll see more of these – plus ‘champagne-yeast’ lagers like Urbanaut’s Hacienda Disco Beer and Garage Project’s Hops en Pointe.
Berliner Weisses are cloudy, sour beers with a distinctive lactic acid flavour. They’ve been around since the 16th Century, but their distinctive style is only just being rediscovered by craft connoisseurs.
Craig Willmott, founder of the UK’s HonestBrew is a major fan. “If you’ve never tried a Berliner Weisse – a traditional sour style from Berlin – the Espiga Peach Berliner Weisse is a great place to start,” he says. “The fruity peach flavours are so well balanced with the acidity from Espiga Brewery.”
IPA sub-styles – and “sessionable” pales
Donaldson also believes that IPA is here to stay – but with modifications. “The style has been around in its current guise for 15 years (big, hoppy) and it will continue to be popular – but we’ll see fracturing and prism-ing of the style with things like Cold IPA, Mountain IPA, Brut IPA, Black, Red and IPAs, etc.
Overall, says Donaldson, the trend for IPA will be more driven by hoppy aromas and flavour rather than bitterness. While Hamish Cross of Norfolk’s Duration Brewing sees a trend towards what he calls “sessionable” Pale Ales – those with a lower ABV.
A Belgian renaissance Downunder
The Belgian growth curve is just getting started Downunder, says Donaldson, and if the US is anything to go by, we’ll see more Witbiers, Saisons, Lambics, Tripels, Dubbels etc appearing in the southern hemisphere. It’s a rich beer culture with plenty to offer and as more people enter the market at the hazy gateway there’s a natural progression to other big flavoured styles.
Rosé beers more than a summer fling
Rosé beers first made an impact as a trending beer around 2020. But rather than being a flash in the pan these have persisted as a fun and attractive summer tipple, with beer site USA Beer Ratings describing them as a summer “beer of choice”.
Straddling the divide between sweet and sour are the divisive ‘ice-cream sours’ – beers that you’ll either love or loathe. They require lots of lactose for creaminess but fans love the fruit smoothie texture and flavour. Donaldson recommends the range from Duncan’s, with flavours like raspberry ripple, blueberry, boysenberry, tangelo, strawberry-mango and passionfruit-lime. Brewers such as Derelict, Deep Creek and Garage Project also dabble in the style.
Meanwhile, so-called “pastry beers” are also making an impact, with big stouts & porters featuring flavours like chocolate & vanilla, peanut butter and jam tart.
Drinkers are coming back to the taste of beer, and moving away from seltzers, says Donaldson. But the trend has influenced consumers’ tastes, with drinkers increasingly moving to super light beers like Budweiser Next.
With the caveat that these drinks will only be available in markets where cannabis products are legal, commentators are predicting that cannabis beers will be the next big thing. These products are often lower in alcohol, and market themselves as hangover-free, with ingredients like CBD providing the relaxant effect.
In US states where marijuana is legal, cannabis infused drinks generated US$252.9 million in sales in 2021, with research by Brightfield Group predicting US$615 million by 2027.
10 beer industry trends
While beer styles comes and go, the business of beer itself has been rapidly evolving. Here are ten major beer industry trends, according to the experts.
Beer margins are shrinking
Costs pressures from inflation are hitting brewers, who’ve been taking the hit on behalf of their customers, and reducing their margins rather passing costs on.
Specialist beverage accountant Maria Pearman – the author of Small Brewery Finance and Distillery Finance – has her eyes on the data every day, and told Unleashed that US brewer’s costs have gone up 15% with sales prices lifting 7%.
“All inputs are costing more – and sales prices are increasing, but clearly not enough to make up for the cost increase.”
US off-site alcohol rules have relaxed
Some of the stricter US rules around offsite alcohol were relaxed during the pandemic, allowing breweries and restaurants to sell online or do kerbside alcohol pick ups for example. And while most of these changes are temporary, some have become permanent.
“It means producers have new ways to get their product in the hands of consumers,” says Pearman. “Which is very helpful.”
Labour shortages blunt the benefits of taprooms
Taprooms have traditionally been the highest-margin channel for selling beer. But according to Pearman this is being eroded by labour shortages, which are making it harder for taprooms to deliver a consistent, high quality customer experience.
In a similar vein, brewers running taprooms have needed to adapt to the new environment by installing contactless payment terminals, and QR-code served menus, to ensure their customers feel safe and happy.
Another beer trend hitting taprooms is a move towards ‘compact’ or micro vat set ups designed to stack directly behind a taproom’s bar.
Australian firm Spark has found success with its patented ‘BrewStack’ which is installed in over 50 sites across the country, allowing super-efficient brewing and service on site.
More science in beer
As flavour-packed styles like fruit sours and hazy IPAs have dominated the craft beer scene, the ingredients required have become more eclectic. Bioengineered yeasts from firms like Berkely Yeast allow for highly tailored taste profiles, while special “thiolised” yeasts create the kind of flavours usually found in Southern Hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc wines.
Meanwhile firms like Haas are creating natural yet highly processed hop concentrates that can deliver maximum punch.
Hamish Cross of Duration Brewing tells Unleashed that they’re seeing continued support for locally produced beer and sustainably minded breweries in the UK – that’s a view shared by Australia’s Hop Nation founder Sam Hambour who sees locally sourced ingredients as a key beer trend Downunder.
Craft vs craft
As the craft beer sector matures it’s only natural that pricing strategies are affected by the greater number of independent brewers – and the first signs of price competition between craft breweries are appearing, says Cross.
“Where typically it was the craft industry against macro lager, we are now seeing macro pricing tactics creep into the craft sector.”
Zero percent beer
One of the buzziest trends in no alcohol beer, says Matt Kirkegaard, the editor of Australian beer industry magazine Brews News. Yet he has a sober take on how far the trend will go.
“There is a huge push for it by beer makers and retailers, and consumers appear curious, but I am not convinced no-alc will deliver on the hype. It has a clear role in the market, but I don’t think it will ever grow to be as large a percentage of the market as its boosters hope.”
Back over at Kiwi beer blog, Pursuit of Hoppiness, Donaldson has a rosier view of the so-called NoLo beer trend, seeing it as part of a broader trend toward healthier-seeming lifestyle beers.
“Low-carb beer is already on a high growth path and will continue to do so as people opt for beers with lower residual sugar.”
“Meanwhile there’s huge growth ahead for non-alcoholic beers (defined in New Zealand as less than 1.15% ABV but usually less than 0.5% ABV). This market has just hit around 2 per cent of sales and will double in the next couple of years if international trends are reflected here, and there’s no reason they won’t.” Another part of the appeal of these drinks to brewers is they don’t incur excise tax.
“In short, we’re seeing beers with much greater flavour in all these areas – zero, low-carb and low alc – and people are responding.”
Read the NoLo Alcohol Report
4 beer marketing trends
The way that brewers are getting their beer into consumers hands has changed a lot in the past few years. Here are four ways that beer marketing is changing.
The TikTok beer poster challenge
The big beer marketing trend last northern summer was the TikTok beer poster challenge, which surely set records as one of the most cost effective guerrilla marketing campaigns of all time.
By harnessing the power of user generated content – and the willingness of attractive young people to post pictures of themselves – some of the big-box beer brands generated colossal levels of brand awareness, and set the bar for beer marketers everywhere.
In case you missed it, the Beer Poster Challenge was simple:
- Brands like Corona, Budweiser and Busch released frames of their logos and products in which you could insert a picture of yourself so that it looked like a poster.
- Attractive young people took photos of themselves in swimwear, inserted them into the posters, and shared them on TikTok – with the hashtag #BeerPosterChallenge and (inexplicably) an AC/DC backing soundtrack.
- Beer brands got millions of free shares and likes.
For context, at the time of writing, the short TikTok video below has been viewed 857,000 times and is just one of hundreds of similar clips.
@lifewjess Would you drink a beer with me? #beerposterchallenge #postertrend #beer ♬ You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
More diversity and inclusion
Almost in direct contrast with the TikTok formula of ‘hot people + product’ is another theme emerging in beer marketing – a trend towards greater diversity and inclusion.
The overall message of projects like Beer Is For Everyone is that the traditional ‘bearded middle aged white male craft brewer’ doesn’t own the beer space – and this has flowed into high profile campaigns such as Heineken’s “Cheers to All” ads.
More recently, the craft beer scene has seen efforts made to support greater diversity in staffing and general outlook, with for example, the US Brewers’ Association sharing advice on How to observe Juneteenth at your brewery.
Smaller brands empowered by digital marketing
Another positive trend for brewers is the way online sales have empowered their marketing efforts. Brewers launching their own direct to consumer channels have found they can more directly affect their sales through online campaigns.
“Previously, brands had to hope that they could get shelf space at the retailer, says Pearman. “Shelf presence was the introduction to the consumer. Now with ecommerce, brewers can build awareness, create demand, and have a greater chance of selling successfully once their brand hits retail shelves.”
The seltzer shelf-space squeeze
Finally, another reason for brewers moving their marketing online has been the seltzer shelf-space squeeze. While the seltzer boom is news to no-one – and may be showing signs of abating, according to industry commentators we spoke to – the impact is still being felt in liquor store beer fridges, where these products are often sold.
With this real estate increasingly crowded, brewers are again finding they need to move their marketing online to generate their brand awareness.