The IPA will continue to reign supreme in the world of craft beer in the new year – though the question is whether they'll be hazy or clear. The cloudy, looks-more-like-orange-juice style – known as the New England IPA – looked like it might not endure the quick-changing trends of microbrewing but there's no sign of it disappearing yet. And while Galway Bay Brewery released their Clear Intentions IPA earlier in the year in a dig at the "race for haze", some breweries now only release cloudy beers.
Either way, it raises the question about the role of appearance in taste – does clarity or haziness affect flavour? It probably does, though the only way to find out for sure is to start doing blind beer tastings – which you can add to your to-do list for 2019.
Hops will continue to have a special place in the hearts of many craft beer consumers, though it looks like yeast is starting to become a more experimental area for brewers. Last year Black Donkey harvested yeast from an ancient cave site in Roscommon to make their Underworld Saison while there were plenty of Brett beers doing the rounds. So you might be hearing more about bacteria, mixed fermentation and yeast-driven flavour profiles (but I'll try to keep it interesting, promise).
Last year there was a considered drive among craft brewers to make lower alcohol beers – from Whiplash’s Micro IPA to O Brothers’ 1%er – and this is likely to continue in 2019, with more microbreweries also adding quality lagers to their offerings.
There’ll be plenty of weirdness in 2019, no doubt. Last year there was Rascals Pina Colada pale ale, Third Barrell’s banana milkshake stout, Rye Rivers’ Spruce Tip saison and Wicklow Wolf’s Smokey Bacon Rauchbier among the more creative offerings. There have been mutterings of more savoury beers coming down the tracks – like the tomato and basil Gose released last summer by Blackmans in the US – so don’t be surprised if beers start sounding more like soups or salads.