Craft Beer – The rise and rise!
It probably will come as no surprise to most that as well as being a wine lover I am also a huge fan of beer too, which has meant I have been particularly excited about the continued success of craft beer in the UK. To the extent that not only am I putting on a Craft Beer and Food Matching event this month, but I am also working on achieving the Certified Cicerone qualification – one of the most highly respected beer qualifications in the world!
So first I should probably try and address a question I get asked a lot – what is a craft beer? The slightly unhelpful answer is that there isn’t a specific definition in the UK, it generally just refers to small independent brewers (although even the independent bit is not really necessary). The craft beer movement really started out in the USA in the 1980s, when law was passed that home brewers could make their own beer. From then till now there are thousands of craft brewers in the USA and the UK is catching up quickly! And with more breweries, craft beer bars and even just an increasing number of craft beers in the supermarkets it looks like that trend is set to continue.
Craft beer can come in all shapes and sizes, some of which will be familiar to most pub goers such as lagers, IPAs, stouts. And then there are some more unusual offerings, often takeing on traditional styles but also some new ones such as Gose, Saison, barrel aged beers, Double IPA, Triple IPA etc, and all sorts of flavourings. Craft beers may previously have been typified by high alcohol and lots of hops, but these days balance is key, it’s all about making good quality beer. So whatever beer you like there should be a craft beer for you somewhere!
This flexibility and creativity is one of the reasons beer continues to gain in popularity, there are new beers being released every week. Plus these beers taste better, are packaged better and increasingly are understood better by beer drinkers. And for the brewer, it no longer has to be about creating a product and sticking with it. Small scale experimental batches are just as highly sought after.
For me, one of the most exciting things about beer is its ability to match with food. I spend a lot of time thinking about food matching, and have found that beer can overcome some of the pitfalls that wine often struggles with, such as spicy foods, sweet foods, or even just particularly strongly flavoured foods. And if you think wine is the best match for cheese – well you may have another think coming!! Goats cheese and witbier could be one of my new favourite things.
So is this trend set to continue? My opinion would be yes!! Craft beers seem to getting more and popular, brewers are getting more and more creative, and while there are many people who are very much ‘into’ craft beer some people are still only just discovering it. So all in all more opportunity for more beer in the future. I’ll drink to that.