Last weekend I had the joy of indulging my love of beer at London Craft Beer Festival 2019. Here are 4 of the big hot spots emerging on the craft beer scene, and what this might mean for food & drink brands in beer and beyond.
- MILKSHAKE BEER
Crucially, this is NOT beer milkshake. Instead this is an IPA or a Pale Ale with lactose added to give the beer a slightly creamy mouthfeel. Usually infused with a fruity flavour, milkshake beers still look the same as any other kegged beer. I tried Mango Splash from Thornbridge (which received my top rating of the day!) and Milk Foley, a strawberry milkshake beer from Turning Point Bew Co.
This feels like the next step on from milk stouts, bringing creamy milk inspiration to beer types such as IPA which have much wider appeal. Whilst milkshake beer itself may not necessarily hit the mainstream, it reflects consumers’ growing adventurousness and their desire for a cross pollination of flavour and texture experiences across different categories.
Fruity infused beers are nothing new, but this year’s festival had a particularly high percentage of tropical inspired brews. From Basqueland’s coconut IPA ‘Tan Lines’ to Sierra Nevada’s ‘Otra Vez’, a gose-style beer with lime and blue agave nectar, the fruit flavours of choice certainly bear resemblance to what you might expect to see on a summer cocktail menu.
Partly driven by taste (tropical flavours sit nicely against hoppier notes) and partly driven by fun, laid-back aesthetic that tropical brings (which marries well with the craft zeitgeist), the trend has certainly evolved from more familiar citras and mango-IPAs. This trend is also testament to the cross-pollination between drinks categories; I’m sure it is no coincidence that coconut beer is beginning to emerge after many solid years of growth in coconut water and milk.
- ALL ABOUT SOUR
Once a single option on the menus of a few brewery taprooms, at this year’s London Craft Beer Festival you couldn’t move for (people drinking) sour beers. The fact that craft beer king Brewdog now have a sub-brand ‘Overworks’, which is dedicated solely to developing sour beers, is further evidence of this growing trend.
The continued charging forward of the sour beer movement reflects a wider consumer interest in extreme flavours and food & drink experiences. The lesson other categories can learn from the brewing industry is the way they have managed to negotiate the line between novelty and, for want of a better word, craft, playing up the alchemy involved in developing extreme flavours and pushing the boundaries.
- WINE CROSSOVER
I noticed a number of beers this year that involved some kind of wine cross-over, especially with sparkling wine. Harbour Brewing Company’s ‘Brut Pastilles’ has it in the name, whilst Curious Brew focus on their skill as wine makers as a key point of difference, creating beers like ‘The Arts’ which is brewed with champagne yeast.
This for me demonstrates craft beer at its best – the art of one brewing school learning from another – as well as a method of premiumisation by drawing on the cues and benefits of a more luxurious category to elevate a product.