What’s tren­ding in Ame­ri­can Craft Beer

Beer fes­ti­vals around the world come in many dif­fe­rent ite­ra­ti­ons but none push the bor­ders of inno­va­ti­on and dis­co­very quite like the Gre­at Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Fes­ti­val, held annu­al­ly in Den­ver, Colo­ra­do and orga­nis­ed by the Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on, the not-​for-​profit trade asso­cia­ti­on for small and inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can craft brewers.

Die­ser Arti­kel ist auch in deut­scher Über­set­zung verfügbar.

After a three-​year pan­de­mic indu­ced hia­tus, this year the fes­ti­val cele­bra­ted its 40th Anni­ver­sa­ry begin­ning back in 1982 with 24 bre­we­ries, 47 beer and 800 visi­tors. The latest edi­ti­on wel­co­med 500 bre­we­ries, pou­ring 2,000 beers enjoy­ed by 40,000 visi­tors and that’s 25% less than nor­mal due to refur­bish­ment works at the festival’s home, the Colo­ra­do Con­ven­ti­on Cent­re. How times have changed!

It’s not only a beer lover’s para­di­se but a world of enter­tain­ment with cra­zy cos­tu­mes, a silent dis­co, huge pret­zel neck­laces, Pai­red – the uni­que beer and food pai­ring expe­ri­ence – a ‘Back­yard’ games area, a Bre­wers Stu­dio for talks and tastings and much, much more com­bi­ning to make an all-​round unfor­gettable experience.

But Ame­ri­can craft beer is undoub­ted­ly the star of the show. Tickets are all-​in allo­wing atten­de­es to sam­ple as many dif­fe­rent beers one ounce/​30ml pours in a 4.5‑hour ses­si­on as they like. Long queu­es deve­lop for ‘hype’ beers and the beer-​savvy, well pre­pared fes­ti­val goers have this down to a tee! For exam­p­le, Sier­ra Nevada’s new col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with Buf­fa­lo Trace’s Colo­nel EH Tay­lor Bour­bon and their Big­foot Bar­ley­wi­ne that had been aged in bour­bon bar­rels for seven years and came in at a whop­ping 15%ABV. Samu­el Adams laun­ched the 2022 ver­si­on of Uto­pi­as, an extre­me bar­rel aged beer that con­sists of blends some dating back 16 years at a mind-​bending 28% ABV! Fresh Hop beers were also in high demand fol­lo­wing the per­fect timing of the fes­ti­val fol­lo­wing last months’ har­ve­st. Were such beers worth wai­ting for – you bet they were!

Lotte Peplow

Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers have long been con­side­red the pio­neers of the cur­rent craft beer world we see around the world today. Ground-​breaking inno­va­ti­on and an uns­wer­ving com­mit­ment to qua­li­ty are hall­marks of this indus­try and the fes­ti­val had both in abun­dance. Top trends were as follows:


IPAs in their many ite­ra­ti­ons con­ti­nue to domi­na­te the Ame­ri­can craft bre­wing sce­ne with appro­xi­m­ate­ly one third of all sales. Well-​made, high qua­li­ty, clas­sic IPAs fea­turing pun­chy, fla­vour­so­me Ame­ri­can hops were high­ly pre­va­lent at the fes­ti­val as both bre­wers and drin­ker ali­ke sought a return to tra­di­tio­nal fla­vours and styl­es such as Breaks­ide Brewery’s IPA or Coro­na­do Bre­wing Co’s Weekend Vibes. The latest trend in the IPA world is for new-​ish Cold IPA, a hea­vi­ly dry-​hopped ale/​lager hybrid made using bot­tom fer­men­ting yeast at war­mer tem­pe­ra­tures to give a clean, cris­pness with hop inten­si­ty and supre­me drin­ka­bi­li­ty. Gone is the pre-​pandemic trend for Brut IPA, while milkshake IPAs were visi­ble but few and far bet­ween (thank­ful­ly!).

Within the IPA cate­go­ry, Impe­ri­al IPAs are dri­ving much of today’s growth and this was reflec­ted on the fes­ti­val floor.

Hazy/​juicy IPAs were also popu­lar but slight­ly less so than 2019 levels when some bre­wers offe­red 3–4 ver­si­on of this one style. Good examp­les included Mel­vin Brewing’s Back in Da Haze or Migra­ti­on Bre­wing Co’s MoHazeIc.

Lagers and Ligh­ter Styles

Ligh­ter and more approacha­ble styl­es were much in evi­dence with a return to less palate-​challenging and more easy-​drinking beers. Lagers inclu­ding Hel­les, Pils­ner, Okto­ber­fest, Fest­bier, Mar­zen, Bocks and much more all fea­tured heavily.

Low and No

Alcohol-​free beers account for a small but rapidly gro­wing sec­tor of the Ame­ri­can craft beer with .5% of the total mar­ket. This may seem small but com­pared to other sub-​sectors of craft beer it’s a big chunk. The­re were more examp­les of low and no alco­hol beers than ever befo­re with bre­wers show­ing high levels of inge­nui­ty and ima­gi­na­ti­on, eg. Ath­le­tic Bre­wing Co’s medal win­ning Lemon Radler.

Wood & Barrel-​Aged Strong Beers

Pastry stouts were less of a thing this year but inten­se, high ABV, rare beers were much sought after eg. Fires­tone Wal­ker Para­bo­la, impe­ri­al stout aged in Bour­bon bar­rels for a year and The Bruery’s Ivoi­re, Bour­bon barrel-​aged ale.

Weird and Wacky

Alt­hough not neces­s­a­ri­ly a trend, Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers love pushing the boun­da­ries of crea­ti­vi­ty and here’s three examp­les of ground-​breaking wack­i­ness that all tas­ted bet­ter than they sound:

Car­rot & Turm­e­ric Saison

Gose with marsh salt and spi­ru­li­na, a food-​grade algae that gave the beer a green colour

Pea­nut But­ter Hefeweizen

The demand for IPA and juicy/​hazy IPAs is mir­rored in the results of the GABF com­pe­ti­ti­on, which ran con­curr­ent­ly with the fes­ti­val and took place for the 36th time. This year 9,904 beers ente­red the com­pe­ti­ti­on in 177 beer styl­es. They were jud­ged by 235 jud­ges who award­ed 300 mem­bers in total. As trends on the fes­ti­val flo­or sug­gest, the five most ente­red style cate­go­ries were:

  • Ame­ri­can Style IPA with 423 entries
  • Jui­cy or Hazy IPA with 375 entries
  • Ger­man Style Pils­ner with 233 entries
  • Ger­man Wheat Ale with 209 entires
  • Ger­man Style Mar­zen with 207 entries

Win­ning a medal at GABF is high­ly pres­ti­gious and reco­g­ni­s­es bre­wing excel­lence. Com­pe­ti­ti­on among­st bre­wers is inten­se and the sheer, unbrid­led joy when a win­ning bre­wery is announ­ced is tes­tim­o­ny to that. They whoop, hol­ler, hug and slap each other on the back befo­re hea­ding on stage to coll­ect their medal and pose for a win­ning photograph.

Chris Wil­liams, com­pe­ti­ti­on direc­tor for GABF, says: “Each year the Gre­at Ame­ri­can Beer Fes­ti­val show­ca­ses the best that Ame­ri­can bre­wers have to offer. With 9,904 ent­ries this year’s com­pe­ti­ti­on was the most com­pe­ti­ti­ve to date and tru­ly demons­tra­ted why the US is the best bre­wing nati­on in the world.”

Some of the medal win­ning beers may make their way into export mar­kets such as gold medal win­ners Deschu­tes Brewery’s Hach­imit­su Mai, a lager bre­wed with puf­fed Jas­mi­ne rice, almost no hops and Chi­lean Ulmo honey or peren­ni­al favou­ri­te Alla­g­ash Bre­wing Co’s White, a Bel­gi­an style wheat beer that fre­quent­ly medals in Euro­pean beer com­pe­ti­ti­ons. Also look out for Sier­ra Neva­da Bre­wing Co’s Sun­ny Litt­le Thing, a wheat ale made with citrus, or Cigar City Brewing’s Madu­ro brown ale.

Some bre­wers lik­ed to show off not only bre­wing skills but their beer-​naming crea­ti­vi­ty. In this writer’s opi­ni­on, the wit­tie­st and most irrever­ent of all goes to the win­ner of the hazy/​juicy IPA cate­go­ry, Anhy­zer Kush!

Peo­p­le lucky enough to snag a ticket for Pai­red enjoy­ed 25 inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can craft bre­we­ries and 25 acclai­med chefs who joi­n­ed forces to crea­te mouth-​watering deli­ca­ci­es hand craf­ted to pair with 50 spe­cial beers not found any­whe­re else on the fes­ti­val flo­or. High­lights were a fresh hop IPA from Fre­mont Bre­wing Co, Field to Fer­ment using 100% Cen­ten­ni­al hops that takes just 24 hours from the hop vine to the bre­wing kett­le, pai­red with a spi­cy shrimp cevi­che and Gre­at Divide’s Hoss Okto­ber­fest Lager with brai­sed short rib.

After atten­ding GABF for three con­se­cu­ti­ve days, I sam­pled some of the hig­hest qua­li­ty, excep­tio­nal tasting Ame­ri­can craft beers ever and should you be lucky enough to find such beers in your mar­ket, try them!
Free down­loa­da­ble resour­ces to help you under­stand and enjoy Ame­ri­can craft beer are available at www.brewersassociation.org

The com­ple­te win­ners list is available at the GABF page.

About the Author

Lot­te Peplow is a Cer­ti­fied Cice­ro­ne, accre­di­ted Beer Som­me­lier, inter­na­tio­nal beer judge and beer wri­ter who con­ducts talks and tastings about Ame­ri­can craft beer, orga­ni­s­es events and is a keen advo­ca­te of beer and food pai­ring She’s been invol­ved with the Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on, a trade asso­cia­ti­on repre­sen­ting small and inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can craft bre­wers, for many years and in 2019 was award­ed the title of Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Ambassa­dor for Euro­pe. Her role is to iden­ti­fy oppor­tu­ni­ties for inter­na­tio­nal expan­si­on of Ame­ri­can craft beer and to rai­se awa­re­ness about the qua­li­ty and diver­si­ty of beer styl­es from America’s small and inde­pen­dent craft bre­wers. Based in Lon­don, UK, Peplow is also a mem­ber of CAMRA’s Lon­don tasting panel.

About the Bre­wers Association

The Bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on (BA) is the not-​for-​profit tra­de asso­cia­ti­on dedi­ca­ted to small and inde­pen­dent Ame­ri­can bre­wers, their beers and the com­mu­ni­ty of bre­wing enthu­si­asts. The BA repres­ents 5,500-plus U.S. bre­we­ries. The BA’s inde­pen­dent craft bre­wer seal is a wide­ly adop­ted sym­bol that dif­fe­ren­tia­tes beers by small and inde­pen­dent craft bre­wers. The BA orga­ni­zes events inclu­ding the World Beer Cup®Gre­at Ame­ri­can Beer Fes­ti­val®Craft Bre­wers Con­fe­rence® & Bre­w­Ex­po Ame­ri­ca®SAVOR: An Ame­ri­can Craft Beer & Food Expe­ri­enceHome­brew ConTMNatio­nal Home­brew Com­pe­ti­ti­on and Ame­ri­can Craft Beer Week®. The BA publis­hes The New Bre­wer® maga­zi­ne, and Bre­wers Publi­ca­ti­ons® is the lea­ding publis­her of bre­wing lite­ra­tu­re in the U.S. Beer lovers are invi­ted to learn more about the dyna­mic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com® and about home­brewing via the BA’s Ame­ri­can Home­bre­wers Asso­cia­ti­on® and the free Brew Guru® mobi­le app. Fol­low us on Face­bookTwit­ter and Insta­gram.

Bre­wers Association
1327 Spruce Street
Bould­er, Colo­ra­do, 80302 USA

For fur­ther press information:
Lot­te Peplow
+44 (0)7973 698 414

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