Craft Beer Trends – Nano – Sour – Extreme – Hybrid

Posted on June 2, 2010


Craft beers growth in the last 10 years has been exponential compared to that of the flat revenues of the major brewing companies. Companies such as Molson-Coors, AB-Inbev, SAB-Miller are seeing declining sales of major brands and increases in niche market beers, or what they term ‘Imports’. This for many is a step away from major domestic beers to more ‘craft’ orientated styles.

In the US Craft Beer is growing every year to now being at 7.2% of the industry output, and 4.3% of sales in 2009. These growth rates are helping with the emergence of some bigger names in craft beer market. Companies like Stone, Rogue, Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada, and Sam Adams are all impacting the craft brewing market.

NANO-MICRO Breweries

“The nanobrewer isn’t going to quit his day job. They are brewing because they love the process and want to share the results with the people in their neighborhoods” topfermented

The homebrewers are creating what they now call Nano-Brewers whom are small brewers that do not distribute their beers beyond a small group of friends. The term was one I first read about in a magazine and started seeing stories some local Seattle brewers. This nano-small brewing function can be associated with restaurants or bars that want to serve some of their own brewed beer, but are not classified as a brewpub for licensing rules.


This is a trend that is not necessarily NEW, but there are more beer drinkers whom are accepting these styles of beer. Beer does not always have to sweet, but it can be induced with fruit to provide a sourness on the palate. The variety stems from Belgium and is now catching on in the US. Most brewers are creating Sour Styles as a different creation to their regular line up of beers.

Some of the brewers that are developing a reputation for their Sour Beers are; The Bruery (San Diego), Russian River (San Francisco), Avery (Denver), New Belgium (Denver), Cascade (Portland).

These styles of beers are gaining greater acceptance by a wider audience and new drinkers are trying these beers that are often balanced like fine wines. Preference for these styles of beers with cheese are what I find the perfect balance.

Restaurants are seeing an emergence of trends that are aiming for local products, produce and alcohol choices. In a National Survey the National Restaurant Associated claimed that 79% of restaurants viewed local wine and beer being a hot trend in 2010. There were 62% of these surveyed that viewed micro-brewed and craft beer as a hot trend.

Many restaurants still suffer from the lack of foresight with beer lists. Though some will spend lots of time on wines lists, the opposite is true with beer. There is no need to keep having Heineken or Budweiser, when there are great local beers available, or craft beer from great brewers across the US.


One of the major areas that Craft Brewers can attain new drinkers is through labels, or creative names. A recent beer that I tried was ‘Missoula Moose Drool’, and Stone ‘Arrogant Bastard’ or ‘Ruination’ are favorites in my household. Instead of breweries using the ‘English Ale’ or calling beers by the style, there is some marketing sense in creating a niche name for a beer.

The labeling marketing was perfected in the Wine Industry with brands such as Yellow Tail with which appealed to the American palate, and the label was easy to remember. Brewers who are competing in competitive markets are starting to create interesting names/labels to stand out.


You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware of a Scottish brewery called ‘Brewdog’ that created not only a 32% beer but a  41% IPA. These are the most alcoholic beers in the world, and are at the far end of Extreme. In the US there is the Sam Adams Utopia beer that is 27% and retails for $125US.

Extreme brewing is an area for which Americans are taking the reigns and creating beers that have no rules. There were 30+ Imperial Beers in the top 50 beers of 2009 in’s rankings. Imperial IPA’s and Imperial Stouts/Porters are part of the American beer scene now and will only keep increasing.


Without doubt beers that are not technically correct, or brewed to an exact recipe are what many small brewers are going to be trying. An IPA is an India Pale Ale, but now with the American Imperial IPA, or Double IPA, there are new versions of old beers that are being created daily.

Beers are being wood aged, having whiskey added to them, fruit induced during fermentation, and aged. Craft brewers are adding adjunct ingredients such as Peanut Butter, Chili, Spices, Tea Leaves, anything that will help provide a new flavor or texture. It is what brewers call ‘Fun or Experimental’ batches. Some of these batches work, where others don’t. But that is why Craft Brewers are leading the drinks market in growth. They are trying.


Without doubt this trend will continue with breweries working with others from across the country or globe. Recent examples of collaboration were beer such as Life & Limb from Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, Stone Brewing and Brewdog (Scotland).

These beers are turning into sought after collectors items, and helps provide great publicity to breweries involved.

This Article first published as This Year’s Top 7 Craft Beer Trends @