2006 trends in beer

As befitting a year-end type of post, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the beer trends that cropped up in 2006. One bellwether in this area seems to be when the megabreweries take notice and start releasing their own beers in response to these trends.

Gluten-free beers

I first noticed some gluten free beers in 2005, but with Anheuser-Busch’s announcement of a gluten free beer, I think this is one of the trends to watch going in to 2007. This year was also the first-ever Gluten Free Beer Festival, which took place in Chesterfield, England, with some 28 beers represented.

For an excellent rundown on gluten free beers, check out Wikipedia’s article on them.

Pumpkin beers

Even though I’ve been brewing a pumpkin ale for years, and there’s been at least a few commercial examples around for longer (like Blue Moon’s—from Coors, natch—and Buffalo Bill’s), this year it seems like the pumpkin beer meme really took off.

Everybody and his brother brewed a pumpkin beer—check out the Pumpkin Ale style on BeerAdvocate, and my pointer to pumpkin tastings—and there’s even a pumpkin beer festival (in it’s second year).

And yes, the big brewer (besides Coors): A-B had their Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale out for the second year in a row. I even had some of it. Mine’s better. :)

Fresh hops beers

This was also the year of the fresh hop (or "wet" hop) beer. Again, although my first exposure to such was last year’s Hop Trip from Deschutes Brewery, this year the scene exploded.

Yakima saw the fourth annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival, and the third Fresh Hop "Tastival" was held in Portland. Breweries all over were announcing fresh hop beers. Even Anheuser-Busch, with their Wild Hop Lager (which, by at least one review, is awful), so there you go.

I was even tempted to brew my own fresh hop beer, with my mom’s freshly-picked hops. I needed to be more prepared, though. Maybe next year.

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