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Brewly Noted: Brewing Trends at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival

by Nathan Solheim on Oct 6, 2014 in Beer
Brewly Noted: Brewing Trends at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival

When the Great American Beer Festival began in 1982, there were only a handful of attendees and craft brewers. In 2014, more than 3,500 beers from over 700 breweries were served in the convention hall, and organizers announced plans to increase those numbers in 2015. There’s no question, the GABF is the undisputed champion of beer festivals. But, things have changed. A lot. Here are some trends we noticed from this year’s festival.

Girls, girls, girls. For years, the GABF was a pretty dude-centric affair. But just from casual observation, many more women are picking up the craft beer habit—and participating in the GABF itself. The Brewers Association, which stages the GABF each year, says that young women of ages 21–34 now account for 15% of total craft beer volume.

The South is rising. Craft brewing in the south lagged behind the rest of the country for a good, long time. But now, top-notch breweries are opening up below the Mason-Dixon line with relative newcomers Wicked Weed of North Carolina, Funky Buddha of Florida and Devil’s Backbone of Virginia garnering rave reviews. Mix in trendsetters like Georgia’s Sweetwater, Florida’s Cigar City and Arkansas’s Diamond Bear, and plenty of other smaller operations and it looks like the south is catching up.

Sour on. Sour beers continue to grow in popularity as drinkers continue to demand more and more funkiness in their beer. Belgian and German sour beers continue to show up in brewery line-ups and there are some breweries now that focus entirely on sours.

We still love hops. The most popular judging category at the 2014 GABF (and in the past) was American-Style IPA with 279 entries. That means Americans’ thirst for hops is far from being unquenched. By comparison, the second most popular judging category—Herb and Spice Beer—had 150 entrants.

German style. As we walked through the GABF this year, there were plenty of breweries—big and small—attempting more German styles: lager, Oktoberfest, bock, doppelbock, gose, altbier and others. German styles take a bit more time and attention to brew, so beer lovers could be looking at more adventurous brewers or improving brewing techniques.

Until next year...

Photo © Brewers Association


Tags: Beer, Festival
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