Know your session from your saison: 2016 beer trends

By
Catherine Lawson
Added
25 February, 2016

With London Beer Week in full swing, Cooked writer Catherine Lawson caught up with Jethro Holman, beer sommelier at Meantime Brewing Company, to talk about 2016 beer trends.

The beauty of beer lies in its seemingly endless versatility; with four ingredients you can change so many things, such as ABV, colour, bitterness, sweetness, carbonation, aroma... the list goes on. This rise of modern craft has meant that brewers are exploring different combinations to create new and exciting beers all the time. There’s variety out there now that didn’t exist before. People have really begun to embrace the breadth of offering in the same way they traditionally have done with wine.

 

In all honesty, I think that the rise in popularity of craft beer is down to the British public developing a more discerning taste and looking for new things. We have seen this in gin, coffee, artisan food and the like. Fewer and fewer are heading into the pub, holding their hand out and asking for ‘the usual’. Instead, people are asking questions: ‘Who made it? What style of beer is it?’ etc. That shows a monumental change in the way the public drinks – something Meantime takes great pride in helping to shape.  

 

My prediction is that 2016 be the year that black beers pop up everywhere – from Schwarzbiers to Baltic porters and stouts right through to black lagers and black ales. By roasting the malts to give the distinguishing black colour, you can make virtually any beer ‘black’, in doing so adding a roasted richness of flavour. Some black beers are already out there to be enjoyed, but others are being pioneered and have rarely been brewed before, so this is an exciting development in modern craft. Expect to see plenty of varieties of stout this year – imperial stouts based on the stouts brewed in London for the Russian court, oatmeal stouts and milk stouts, to name a few. Baltic porters come somewhere between the traditional London porter and the stronger, sweeter imperial stouts – not a session beer but one to be savoured for its richness. Meantime is also brewing a black lager with complex, roasted flavours contrasting with the fruity citrus flavours given by using Cluster hops. Perhaps more unusually, we’re also working on a black saison – a pale ale normally associated with fruity flavours and highly carbonated. I’m really looking forward to black lagers making an appearance on the taps!

 

As much as they are wonderful to drink, I think 2016 might be the year we see a slight decline in super hoppy, high-ABV IPAs. They will still be being drunk, don’t get me wrong, but we will start to see people going for lower ABVs and slightly more session-style beers. Britain is still for the most part a nation of 4-5% ABV pale ale and lager drinkers; brewers are realising this and curving the IPA game to suit us. As a result, session or all-day IPAs are popping up left, right and centre.

 

There’s no shortcut to becoming a beer sommelier. I worked for a few years at Meantime doing the talks and tours, both at the brewery and around the country. Alongside that I started working freelance doing events such as dinner parties and talks at museums and a couple at a university, as weird as that one sounds. After a while, though,  it became clear to me that I needed to get the official accreditation under my belt to progress, so applied for places on sommelier courses and assessments at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s Beer Academy. There are four courses that must be completed before you can take the final examination - it’s a lot of studying!


London has been a major brewing hub for centuries. At Meantime we’re fiercely proud of our roots; we set up in the heart of Greenwich and 15 years later, we’re still brewing here. You’ve only got to walk for five minutes in somewhere like Bermondsey to find six or seven brewers in close proximity, which means that we can share ideas and keep beer moving along, evolving and changing. It’s not just London though; travel all over the country and new, exciting breweries are everywhere. As far as I can see the north--south divide means nothing to brewers; we like a good beer wherever we live. 


Find out more about Meantime Brewing Company here.

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