USA TODAY’s Mike Snider talks about sour beers and colaboration brewing with New Belgium Brewing’s Kim Jordan and Bluejacket’s Greg Engert.
H. Darr Beiser
Beer lovers are far from souring on craft beer, but many brewers are turning to sour beers and other new twists to keep the growing beer category fresh.
In addition to beers that may cause lips to pucker, there’s an inpouring of hoppy but lower-alcohol session brews and luxuriant, wildly inventive beers borne out of collaborations between brewers.
Such experimentation is “pushing the envelope of what beer can be and finding new flavors,” says Greg Engert, beer director of Bluejacket brewery and restaurant in Washington, D.C.
As overall U.S. beer consumption has declined slightly in recent years, craft beer is on the rise. Consumers spent an estimated $14.3 billion on craft beer in 2013, according to the Brewers Association, up 20% from the $11.9 billion spent in 2012.
“The craft brewing industry has evolved from a raggedy bunch of home brewers and dreamers to a bona fide 10% segment of the $100 billion American beer industry,” writes Brooklyn Brewery co-founder and president Steve Hindy in his recent book, The Craft Beer Revolution: How a Band of Microbrewers is Transforming the World’s Favorite Drink (Palgrave Macmillan, $25).
Actually, it’s even more than that, as last year craft beer’s share of the total U.S. beer market grew to more than 14%, the association says. Today there are more than 2,800 craft breweries in the U.S., surpassing even pre-Prohibition days.
“You are seeing a big boom in not just production facilities that are doing shipping of beer offsite, but also in the on-premise sales of brewpubs,” says Engert, who oversees a lineup of 25 on-site brewed beers at Bluejacket, which opened late last year near Nationals Park.
At breweries and brewpubs, brewers are trying new styles to satisfy their creative urges — and quench ever-adventurous customer palates. “Over the last 150 to 200 years, beers got kind of mainlined into a very clean and consistent product,” Engert says. “A lot of craft brewers today are interested in making crisp and clean full-favored lagers, hop-driven IPAs (India Pale Ales) and pale ales, but also want to showcase that wild…