We recently published a piece by Matthew Curtis about wild beers and the tensions that surround their naming when they’re brewed outside of their traditional regions. It got us thinking about newer styles like Hazy IPA and pseudo-styles like Florida Weisse. Will these beers still be around in 50 years, or will trendier styles like them cycle in and out forever?
Zack Rothman: “I believe the New England IPA has cemented its place as a regional beer style. Not only was it recently made official by the Brewers Association, but brewers across the country are making it. Méthode Traditionelle is a designation developed by American brewers to signify that their beer was inspired by the Lambic and/or Gueuze styles. Likewise, many brewers outside of New England have used ‘New England-style IPA’ to note their inspiration from the New England brewers that first developed the NE IPA style. The fact that is has become so widespread and is now being brewed around the world tells me that it is here to stay.”
Lana Svitankova: “I don't see any of new (or old, for that matter) beer styles getting an appellation status, not in the U.S. I don't see any desire in American brewers to grab something for themselves only, or keep something limited to any area. Besides all the new spreads too fast to control it or to pinpoint the exact location of origin (and this origin doesn't have anything in common with locality mostly).”
Erik Arvo: “Fifty years is hard to say. It’s hard to say what will even be relevant in five years. New England IPA is a style that’s not going to go anywhere, but the way it is currently made and marketed to consumers will definitely change. For a while there I thought we would just continue to climb up the IBU scale by one with each new Imperial IPA to be released. Imperial and Double IPA’s are still around and delicious, but everyone is not trying to outdo each other by going over the top. Everyone right now seems to be just trying to make their version of NE IPA more cloudy, murky, or hazier than the previous person.
I think it will be tough to have another specific style represent any region. Instead, I think you will continue to see more sub categories such as West Coast or New England. While styles themselves, they are ultimately all part of a larger category with IPA. I think each region throughout the country will continue to push the style of IPA to create something that helps them stand out amongst others.”
Bryan Arndt: “When looking at the traditions of other countries with rich histories (England, Germany, and Belgium immediately come to mind), there are some commonalities with styles that are either dependent on a region (raw materials: fruit, hops, etc) or have become a definitive style for that region through longevity/popularity. When looking at the U.S. and our specific resources and tastes, I think that styles like the West Coast IPA and American Adjunct Lager have (and have had) significant staying power and relevance. Additionally, as the ‘pendulum’ swings back from some current and more extreme styles (heavily fruited or hopped offerings), I think the American Pale Ale (with our country’s significant hop diversity and style-defining resources) could have the potential for similar long-term relevance as a sort of little brother to the current NE IPA, despite (or maybe in benefit of) not necessarily being tied to a specific geographic location or set of pioneering breweries.”
Caldwell Bishop: “I think that as people become more health conscious there's a chance that higher-ABV beers in particular will not have much appeal. I could see low-ABV and gluten-free beers as being the most common in 50 years because of this, assuming beer is even widely produced. I also wonder how sustainable it is. I don't know much about agriculture, but I suspect at some point the land used for hops and grains might be converted to other crops providing greater nutritional value for the land used. It seems unlikely that the world's population will decline significantly at any point, and also unlikely that people—especially in richer countries—will slow down their consumption. So land will become even more of a commodity, unless we colonize Mars, of course.”
Maurice Deasy: “Speaking from an Irish perspective, our yields of barley would be not far removed from that of wheat, so in terms of food production, I think it’s the same. Now I do think there is a point that the macro breweries that are chasing margin use adjuncts (corn starch, rice, etc.), so in 50 years, it might be commonplace if food prices increase. The pressure would be higher on hops and finding alternatives.”
Nick Yoder: “The unique aspect of beer styles, as opposed to wine, is that certain styles are associated with a certain place only due to prevalence in that location. With the exception of spontaneously fermented beers, beer doesn't really have a terroir. There are certain elements that are integral to production that are tied to place (the soft water of Pilsen, for example), but they can all be used elsewhere. Water can be adjusted, hops and malt can be shipped. So really what creates a distinct regional style is a group of people in a geographic area doing the same thing over and over for a long time while no one outside that area does it.
But with how connected the world is now, the time it takes for ideas to spread keeps shrinking, and suddenly the geographic boundaries of a style become blurred. Consider how long it took for a style like West Coast IPA to become recognized and then compare that with NE IPA. We're still certainly in an era where a style can be associated with a region. Even with how quickly NE IPA has expanded, it still started as a New England specialty. It's just a matter of how long that lasts.
It's so difficult to look 50 years out and figure out what styles will be considered American, because the American style has changed so rapidly. Thirty years ago, an American IPA was malty and not that far from the English original. Ten years ago, it was C-hopped with no malt. Five years ago, it probably had fruit. Now, it's hazy and juicy. The safest bet is that whatever styles America is known for 50 years from now, they will likely be over-the-top, souped-up versions of what came before because that has always been the American style. We want the extreme. The highest ABV. The most bitter. The least bitter. We turn it up to 12 because 11 isn't high enough.”