More than 14,000 brewers and brewing industry professionals trekked to the Mile High City in April to attend the annual Craft Brewers Conference. The National Honey Board (NHB) has exhibited at this show for the last five years, educating brewers about the many flavor and functional roles that honey plays in beer.
From 9am to 5pm, our booth was packed with brewers interested in learning about honey varietals and telling us about their latest made-with-honey beer. We saw quite a few friends and Honey Beer Summit alumni, and generated quite a bit of attention for our upcoming Honey Beer Competition (www.honeybeercompetition.com).
We also noted these three key trends that were talked about at the show, and will be impacting the beer you’ll be drinking this summer and into 2020.
IPA Craze Continues
In the craft beer industry, IPAs drive sales, volumes and interest. It’s been that way for several years, and there are no signs of IPA sales waning. In fact, the category is expanding into regional styles of IPAs such as the popular New England Hazey IPAs, as well as extra-dry Brut IPAs. We’re also seeing a significant amount of honey being used in IPAs from both flavor and functional perspectives.
As a flavor, honey provides a sweetness to IPAs to balance out the bitter edges some hops can impart. On a functional side, honey added during the boil phase of the brewing process will raise the ABV of an IPA without contributing sweetness, as the sugars in honey will ferment out before making it into the bottle or can.
Light Beers, Crisp Finishes
Light beers were once the sole domain of the non-craft beer scene, with giant global brewers such as Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors competing for consumers by creating beers light on taste, calories and alcohol content. Craft brewers are trying to win some of these consumers over by delivering low-calorie, low-alcohol beers, but with a ton of flavor.
For many craft brewers, honey is the answer for crafting easy-drinking ales and lagers. The simple sugars in honey ferment out of these beers and impart a wonderful aroma while lightening the body of a beer and delivering a crisp finish.
Now for Something Different….Mead
It was apparent on the show floor that every craft brewer was looking for the next big thing or point of distinction. Many brewers that stopped by the NHB booth were interested in mead and how they could distinguish their brewery by serving this honey wine. Clearly, we’re big fans of mead and we were more than happy to tell brewers all about how this honey wine can come in multiple styles, from dry to sweet to fruited. We expect to see more and more brewers offering both still mead that drinks like wine and carbonated mead that drinks like beer.
We want to hear from you! Do you have a favorite made-with-honey beer? Tell us about it in the comments below.