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Brewly Noted: Beer Trends We Noticed at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival

by Nathan Solheim on Sep 30, 2015 in Beer

The Great American Beer Festival was bigger than ever in 2015—but that didn’t stop this beer correspondent from noticing a few trends during all the sips, samples, and duds.

Sour On
Sour beer continues to rise in popularity. Many breweries seem to be earning their dollars and fans on the sour beer trade, with sour producers such as Wicked Weed (North Carolina), Russian River (California), Lost Abbey (California), and the Rare Barrel (California) garnering long lines with mostly sour offerings.

Sour On, Part 2
2015, in my opinion, saw more sour beers made with ingredients that went beyond the addition of bacteria or barrel-aging for flavor. Sours made with an assortment of fruit, berries, and alcohol were abundant.

Hop Domination
The American-style IPA category had 336 entries in the competition—the most in any category. American thirst for humulus lupulus continues to grow with no end in sight. In fact, four of the top-five most entered categories were pale ale or IPA styles.

Mixing Pleasures
Short’s Brewing Company of Michigan won a gold medal in the experimental beer category for a Gin and Tonic beer. Yes, it tasted like a G&T. Look for more breweries in the future to one-off or even produce experimental beers. Plus, a spin on the whiskey beers appeared. Those beers are usually dark ales—porters or stouts—but a couple breweries brought whiskey lagers or pilsners.

Don’t Eat the Worm
Some may disagree, but tequila barrels are gaining in popularity for aging an assortment of beers. In fact, plenty of other liquor flavors found their way into beers at the festival, including sherry and brandy.

Hash it Out
Dads and Dudes Breweria from Colorado brought the world’s first cannabis beer to this year’s festival. It proved so popular brewers had to ration 1 oz. pours throughout each session. It has no THC, so no one got high, but the novelty proved popular. Be on the lookout for other such efforts, since Colorado and Washington also sport serious craft brew movements.

Grow
The Brewers Association estimates that the USA now sports 3,464 breweries—the most since 1873. Additionally, the industry’s unofficial goal is to get to 20 percent market share by 2020. That means more brews, breweries, and, most likely, a bigger beer festival in years to come.

Photo by Jack Dempsey/Invision for Red Robin/AP Images


Tags: Beer, Festival
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