Once a year or so, my editors at Planet S Magazine like me to offer a “what’s new in beer” kind of column – a piece that identifies future trends and things to look for. As I sat down at my keyboard a few weeks ago for the latest installment, I found my mind drifting to a place it hasn’t before. I started thinking about how fast those new trends are coming. I started to consider that maybe, just maybe, beer had reached a point where we can legitimately talk about beer crazes.
Now, crazes are not necessarily a good thing. Flash in the pan is not what a burgeoning, evolving industry like craft beer needs. But, seeing a few bandwagons pop up now and again does hint that maybe beer is becoming “cooler”.
In the Planet S piece (which you can read here), in addition to some general observations, I look at two recent examples. First, I take note at the surprising growth in the popularity of Saison. This sleepy, esoteric style has in the past couple of years become quite the darling of the summer seasonal set. I find this a positive development, both because I enjoy saison quite a lot, but because it suggests that subtle complexity and unusual flavours are becoming not only acceptable, but sought out.
But my anchor example is that of White IPA. Three years ago this beer did not exist, as it was first brewed as a collaboration between Deschutes and Boulevard Brewing in the States. A scant 36 months later and more than 100 examples have been attempted around North America, including a handful in Western Canada (such as Alley Kat’s Avenue Whyte). That is some crazy fast growth.
Does it rate as a craze? Will it have staying power? I will leave that for you, and time, to decide. Regardless, I think the rapid spread of White IPA is evidence that craft beer is reaching a new level of popularity, respect and hipness that should make us all rather pleased.