Nothing beats a nice cool beer on a hot summer day. The only question is, what kind of beer? Some of your guests at a poolside party may be partial to a specific craft pale ale while others like the traditional American beer from a can. Beer has been around for generations, since the meads of the Middle Ages, but it keeps evolving into new forms. There are always new beer trends and imaginative ways to enjoy this classic alcoholic beverage made of grains. Just when you think that beer innovation has been exhausted, there is something new under the sun and it winds up in your cooler or refrigerator.
The world beer cup
The famous World Beer Cup; a biannual Olympics of beers, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2016. This year’s festival saw the highest international participation on record, with 55 countries represented, 39% of visitors came to the festival for the first time. Thousands of beers competed for top awards, but just as important as grabbing a prize was gaining press attention and publicity for new beer products and emerging small breweries. The star drink of the festival was Indian pale ale which was the most common variety of beer featured.
Everyone was talking about hops at the festival. Hops is a plant that gives beer its particular zest. The Frestone Walker brewery displayed its Luponic Distortion Series of beers that feature experimental hops combinations for a variety of flavors and consistencies. This series will change the hops combination every 90 days for an unexpected aroma and flavor. This will produce a taste adventure for customers who enjoy freshness and the unique flavor of various kinds of hops. One hops intense beer featured at the festival was Elysian Hubris, with a staggering 8.6% alcohol content and a robust hops flavor.
Craft beers are not just an American phenomenon as beer lovers and world travelers know. A testament to this was the stellar performance of Asian craft beers at the world beer cup. Another development that commanded attention but perhaps without unanimous approval was the presentation of beer milkshakes. A chain of restaurants in Colorado and the Southeast called “Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar” is famous for its beer combined with vanilla or chocolate scoops. Others have experimented with berry ice creams plopped into huge mugs of fruity beers. A number of people enjoyed a rich dessert of full-bodied stout with a creamy head and two scoops of vanilla ice cream floating at the top.
Hard soda, nitrogen carbonation and cans
Not quite as radical as beer milkshakes, but, still fairly experimental and popular are hard root beers. These beers are reminiscent of your favorite soda as a kid. But, it is not something you want to serve your child with a hot dog, since it has substantial alcohol content. Coney Island Brewery, which is a subset of Boston breweries, produces hard sodas which are not beer per se, but, seem to fall into a similar category. Now you can enjoy hard ginger ale and orange drink alcohol as an alternative to beer. Another drink trend is the popularity of cider, which is another beer alternative.
If nitrogen carbonation sounds terribly scientific, the best example of it that isn’t too difficult understand is a large foaming glass of Guinness. This Irish stout has been the envy of beer companies all over the world for its smooth, foamy head that gathers like a small ball at the bottom of an empty glass and slides gently down your throat like a beer dessert. Other beer companies are adopting nitrogen carbonation to try to create a similar foamy head that made Guinness famous. Samuel Adams has announced nitro beer products in addition to its regular offerings. Other beer companies who are jumping onto the nitro beer wagon include Sierra Nevada, Six Point, and Sly Fox Beer.
With the growth of craft beers, beer in a can seemed as déclassé as mixed vegetables in a can. Since the 1990s, cans have been a less popular packaging for food and drink in general, while cans were all the rage in the 1950s. Perhaps because of a Cold War anxiety about making food stackable and long-lasting for the nuclear fallout shelters. Along with talk of nuclear weapons (not that there’s any real connection) cans are making a comeback, if not for vegetables, then at least in the beer world. Among the various differences between craft beers and regular American beers was the packaging. Craft beers have always been available in bottles and the can is a symbol of your dad and granddad’s beer. Now, craft breweries are discovering the convenience of cans and word has it that they might release their unique products in the time-honored American beer container.
There was some speculation whether the gluten-free trends might hurt the beer industry. The truth is that while many people talk and even boast about shunning all forms of wheat and gluten, if someone is going to cheat on one of these diets, we know the first thing they’re going to head for – a nice cold beer on a hot summer day. Having said that, the gluten-free frenzy among twentysomething hipsters might be one reason why hard ciders are growing in popularity as well as hard soft drinks (if the expression hard soft drinks makes any sense). We are willing to bet though, that even if someone can resist a bagel in the morning, a sandwich in the afternoon and a lasagna at night, they will likely be unable to beat their need for a frosty glass of beer to combat the heat in the summer and to lift their mood in the winter. After all, as the expression goes, man can’t live by kale alone, and until there is a kale beer, the hipsters are still going to head for the hops for refreshing intoxication.