What is the next big thing in beer? Jono Outred has looked into the crystal ball and talked to a few key players to get an idea of what will be the hottest beers of 2023.
In the constantly evolving, often turbid world of craft beer, consumer preferences quickly change, ebbing and flowing as styles are created, perfected or reinvigorated.
Welcome to the era of hype beer.
A relatively new phenomenon, hype beers are where brewers and retailers are challenged to keep up with the demands of consumers seeking a particular style, only to see that style fade away again in favour of another ‘next big thing’.
In 2021 and through the first half of 2022, we’ve seen the rise and rise of hazy-leaning IPAs, where NEIPAs and oat creams emerged as favourites, while other variants of IPA began taking on a hazy identity; a component once stringently avoided in previous years. In addition, the fruited sour also hit its straps, ranking as the fourth most popular beer style on Untappd in 2022. Once a fringe offering, with advancements in mixed culture souring yeasts and the availability of fruit concentrates and purees, the category encapsulates many variations, giving brewers and consumers an abundance of choice.
But what about 2023? Amongst all the chaos, there is some stability and predictability. While some styles have come and gone within months, others have evolved so quickly that their predecessors are long forgotten. For example, lagers (particularly Pilsners) have garnered more attention, surging into popularity after an overwhelming amount of fruited, lactose-laced beers started dominating shelves.
For another perspective, Rhys Lopez has been involved in the brewing industry since 2004 and is currently the head brewer of Otherside Brewing Co in Fremantle, Western Australia. He believes the rise of pastry sours and pastry stouts was surprising but should probably have been expected.
'The rise of the pastry stout and the pastry sour definitely took me by surprise. For the last 8 years, various people have been spruiking the “summer of sour”, which never really came. It looks like kettle sours outside the pastry realm are all but dead.'
However, he explains that he wasn’t that far off the mark.
'I would have expected more classical style mixed-fermentation sours to gain traction however the massive fruit sludge sours should have been expected given the rise of hazy, hoppy styles'.
A common theme among brewers is that the hazy IPA and fruited sour styles that are trending now are becoming exhaustive and overdone. Some brewers are pushing the limits of these styles, pushing these products outside the definition of beer.
Indeed there is consensus that we're going to see some change. Lopez imagines lagers will stand firm into the future, but the rise and evolution of the Hazy IPA will continue, likely with a focus on hopping techniques, efficiency, and research.
'In terms of volume produced and consumed, lager will always be the most popular style. But if we are talking specifically about craft beer, then the continuing growth of hazy IPA will continue.'
'The dialling in of various terpenoids and thiols in hop forward beers [will be big in 2023]. More research is being done all the time on the interaction between yeast and hops, whereas previously, the blunt strategy was just to push up dry hopping quantities ever higher, but now there is a growing body of knowledge on how to get more expression from less.'
Guy Southern has been an avid beer commentator and drinker for over a decade. Through his popular Instagram account, Good Times Craft Beer, he has witnessed and documented the constant changes in craft beer while writing for beer publications and working within the beer retail space. He believes hazys will continue to dominate, but what will be more significant in 2023 is how breweries get their beers into consumers' minds and hands.
'There will be more direct-to-consumer brewery models, as breweries can build bigger brand advocacy and potentially largest margin. Changes to social media platforms will mean any beer business will need to engage with customers, not rely on a third-party platform to remain relevant. Also, broad consolidation of beer styles, and a greater focus on price from the foreign-owned Australian breweries.'
Rosemary Lilburne-Fini, who goes by Libations Lady and covers all things craft beer, believes an English-leaning movement might be on the cards for Australian drinkers who have seen the best of hazy IPAs and might be wanting a little more.
‘'I think it’s all going to go old-school English. The next style to be explored is going to be English, but it won’t be labelled as such.'
'For those that fell in love with (maltier style) Sierra Nevada Torpedos and the like, or Beerfarm IPA, for example, it’s a logical next step, and I think those English-leaning styles are super approachable. We’re going to see exciting, malty bitter IPAs next year'.
As for what beer Southern thinks will reign supreme in 2023?
'Australian Wheat. I say that tongue in cheek, but there's a few breweries beginning to push this now.'
Ultimately it’s tricky to nail down what comes next, but it seems likely that IPAs will continue their reign in one form or another. A rise of craft lager can’t be ignored, and there’s likely room for the continued growth of lighter, more refined styles across the board.
One thing is for sure - craft beer and its share of the beer market in Australia is growing, and with that comes the opportunity for brewers to flex their creative muscles, pushing aside beers driven by hype and into products they genuinely want to brew.
Hopefully, a theme for craft beer in 2023!