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The next trend in craft beer

Be it good or bad, craft beer has always had trends that a lot of breweries/drinkers like to follow. Once the initial novelty of craft beer wore off IPA’s seemed to the stage. The hoppier the better. And while that still may be true for some drinkers, I think that most have adjusted themselves to enjoy a balanced hoppy beer over a hop-bomb any day.

In my mind the next “big” thing has been oaked beers. While putting beer in oak casks has been around for hundreds of years, it was the thing to do. There were/are tons of beers that are now oak conditions. While I do like some of the characteristics that oak can add to a beer, it seems like moreover the oak barrel is there to put a “unique” spin on the beer. I am sure there have been plenty of other trends that I have missed, but I’ve only been in the craft beer world for three years now, so those trends may not of been as obvious to me.

In my mind the up and coming trend in craft beer is sour beers. I see more and more news/press releases about sour beers than ever before. It seems like everyone is starting to experiment in them. I really haven’t ever enjoyed the whole sour thing, but I can see why people enjoy it. Sour beers have also been around for hundreds of years, but it seems that a lot of craft brewers are just now taking their first steps into the style. I am all for experimentation in beer and I hope that American Craft Brewers keep turning out some of the finest beers in the world, but I want brewers to be themselves and make quality beers that don’t play towards trends.

My brewpub: What kind of beer?

As I think about my brewpub more and more I have a few issue that come up in my mind. The current thing I can’t get out of my mind is what kind of beer to serve. While this is probably step number 52,561,021 and I am really on step 1.5 I am a beer guy, can I can’t help it. I also tend to get ahead of myself when I am excited about something.

My question breaks down into to parts; what kind of beer to offer and do we have set beers along with seaonals? The kinds of beer to offer doesn’t seem very tough, I enjoy all beers and I really like making different styles. I don’t want to “sellout” and make styles that are selling well, I want to make quality beers of my choosing. Of course the “typical” beers are going to be there; stouts, IPAs, Pale Ales, Porters, Ambers, etc. Yes there will be the occasional Imperial Russian Stout or something oaked or something else that is something different than what you see in a bottle.

The big question in my mind is to offer a year-round selection of beer with a few rotating specials or do we always keep a rotating selection. I’m going to go out on a limb (and I have nothing other than my own observations to support this) and say that 95% of brewpubs have a few set beers and then fill up the rest of their taps with seasonal beers or special beers. I have only ever been to one brewpub that has a new and different beer on tap each week; Bube’s Brewery. I talk about Bube’s last week, and the constantly rotating selection of beer always had me coming back.

There are a few problems with doing this though. You never really have a set cost, as your ingredients are always changing. When coming up with a budget for your brewing expenses it would be nice to have as little guess work involved as possible. I would imagine customers would also like to come back and have a certain beer when they come in. It can help build your brand and also increase repeat customers.

On the other side having a rotating selection of beers has benefits as well. While you don’t have the cost control you do with the other method, you do always have something new on tap. Releasing a new beer each week could really keep people coming back and build your brand in a different way. Speaking from a brewing stand-point you don’t get bored brewing the same thing each week. But for the people who seek consistency and have a favorite beer that they come in for, this doesn’t really work for.

Part of the decision also depends on how many taps we will actually have available to use. My plan is to start with four taps and grow into eight or so. I always want to have a “House Ale” that will been on tap no matter what. With the House Ale adding a anchor beer the other three taps will rotate. Once we are able to expand the taps I would then start have four or so year-round beers and having the other four be whatever we feel like making. I think this satisfies both groups of people who are there for the beer. We can keep things the same and different at the same time. Anyone have any different thoughts on this or any suggestions?