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13 Craft Beer Trends in 2020

Discover What’s Hot, What’s Back and What’s New

Ten years ago, the only beer drinkers in Hong Kong were expats, business travellers and tourists. They had to make do with some basic options from the two local breweries plus mainstream international imports.

That started to change in 2013, when Rohit Dugar made it his mission to introduce the Cantonese population to the joys of craft beer. His success opened the door to a craft beer boom. In five years, the island went from two breweries to over 35. What’s more, the increase in quantity was matched by an increase in quality.

Now, Hong Kong is indisputably one of the leading lights in the craft beer world. It’s known for its innovation and as a place where new trends are set and new discoveries are made. With that in mind here is a quick guide to 13 craft beer trends in 2020.

Hazy IPAs

Hazy IPAs have been a growing trend since 2016. They’re still hugely popular in 2020 and look set to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

One of the key differences between a Hazy IPA (traditionally from New England) and a classic West-Coast IPA, is that Hazy IPAs have a very hoppy aroma. The taste, by contrast, is still quite fruity so they are easier to drink than a West Coast IPA.  West Coast IPAs smell and taste intensely hoppy so they can have a fairly bitter finish.

Hazy IPAs are a growing trend.  This is totally understandable given that they not only smell great, but are also generally fruitier and much easier to drink than West Coast IPAs.  This makes them more appealing to a wider audience.

If you enjoy trying hoppy craft beer with tropical fruit tastes that’s also light on the palette, then try a Hazy IPA. They are starting to get some serious recognition amongst the wider craft beer community.

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Milkshake IPAs

Milk beers were a big trend in 2019. This meant that there was plenty of choice but the quality was highly variable.  Now, the breweries seem to have learned from their experience. The more questionable offerings have largely disappeared. This leaves craft beer drinkers to enjoy the tastiest milkshake IPAs.

Coming Soon:

These are popular in the US and the UK, we’re on a mission now to find a supplier so we can bring these into the HK market.

Low-alcohol beers

For many people, beer is a social drink. During the week it may be kept for the evenings. At weekends, however, people want to be able to enjoy good beer in the daytime. That means low-alcohol, sessionable beers.  The sort of beers you can spend an afternoon drinking and still keep a clear head.

Now brewers are making a great range of low alcohol craft beers, which are still full of flavour and that great hop taste, but also light and easy to drink with low ABV.  The definition of low ABV varies by country, but as a rule of thumb beers between 0.5% and 4% ABV is considered low ABV.

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No-alcohol beers

There’s no getting away from the fact that regular beer is high in sugar. That’s part of what makes it taste so good. It’s also why it’s so easy to get a beer-belly if you drink a lot of it. Low-alcohol beer sacrifices a bit of that “real beer” taste for a whole lot of health points.

As a bonus, no-alcohol beers means that you can drink as much beer as you like without becoming remotely inebriated. This means that you can drink and drive. You can also drink when you have to work or know you might get called into work.

Again, the definition of no-alcohol beers varies by country.  Most places consider up to 0.05% ABV as being no-alcohol.

Examples:

Hard seltzer

Hard seltzer has been around for decades. For most of that time, it has been largely ignored by breweries’ marketing teams. This meant that you either knew about it or you didn’t. If you did know about it, there was a good chance you knew about it as a “dieter’s drink”. In other words, the fact that hard seltzer is mostly water means that it’s low in alcohol. This means that it’s low in sugar and hence low in calories.

The market for hard seltzer has shown massive growth over recent years. This is partly due to traditional beer drinkers looking for lighter alternatives, at least some of the time. It’s also due to non-beer-drinkers asking for it when they go to hang out in taprooms with their friends.

Examples:

High ABV beers are becoming more niche

Today’s generation of drinkers clearly wants beers with less alcohol and, hence, less sugar.  This means that most high ABV beers are probably going to dwindle to a niche market.  Established brands will probably stick around, at least for now, but don’t expect much, if anything, in the way of new entrants to the market.  The one exception to this might be milk stout.  This not only has a solid fan base, due to its long history but also benefits from the trend in milk beers.

Examples:

CBD beers are emerging

This emerging trend looks like it could either turn out to be huge or fizzle away into nothing. There is no doubt that CBD is here to stay. There is no doubt that beer is here to stay. The only question is whether or not CBD beer is here to stay.

On the one hand, CBD is valued as a health product. Beer is essentially a fun drink, not a health drink. You could, therefore, question whether CBD and beer are really a good pairing. On the other hand, CBD coffee is firmly established and coffee isn’t a health drink either. This could be a sign that CBD beer does indeed have a long-term future.

Coming Soon:

These are popular in the US and the UK, we’re on a mission now to find a supplier so we can bring these into the HK market.

Craft lagers are gaining credibility

Even in 2020, nobody is claiming that craft lagers are matching IPAs for rich, satisfying complexity. Sometimes, however, you just want some fresh, crisp but smooth bubbles to pour down your throat. When you do, craft lager is the perfect option. This is one trend which looks set to continue into 2021 and well beyond.

Examples:

Sours are getting wide appeal

Sours have been a growing trend for many years now. In fact, they’ve arguably been a case study in the laws of supply and demand. Brewers created them for a niche market. The niche drinkers became brand ambassadors for sours and, slowly but surely, the word got out.

This steady growth looks set to continue as it merges nicely with three other major trends. Firstly, there’s the low-alcohol/low-sugar trend. Not all sours fall into this category but many do. Secondly, there’s the established, but growing, trend for fruit-based beers.

Thirdly, the breweries are, understandably, doing their best to tempt wine-drinkers to join the craft beer community. Sours are an excellent crossover drink to expand their palettes without challenging them too much.

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Brewing advancements and AI

Modern craft brewers are trying to move away from the “hit and miss” approach to creating new products. This means that they’re increasingly trying to use artificial intelligence to predict what drinkers will and won’t like. The standard approach is to collect feedback from humans, use AI to analyse it and then provide human brew-masters with its conclusions. Only time will tell if this will be the way of the future

Sustainable packaging

This is a major global trend in literally every industry sector. It’s, therefore, encouraging to see the craft beer industry doing its bit for the planet. Craft beer packaging has long been pretty sustainable.  That said, there’s always room for improvement. As a bonus, updating packing creates an opportunity to update branding.

Trendy taprooms

Modern taprooms are about the beer-drinking experience. Obviously, the beer is the most important part of that. The taproom itself, however, needs to set the perfect stage for the perfect brew. Of course, everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect place to drink beer. For some, it’s vintage charm, whereas for others it’s super-modern. Whatever it is, these days, there’s guaranteed to be somewhere to suit you in Hong Kong.

If this article has given you a thirst for real craft beer, then why not try out our mixed cases and gift boxes, see what’s on our best-seller list or check out our special offers.

Online beer delivery stores

Online beer delivery stores were a growing trend long before COVID19 and look like they’re going to be around long after it’s gone.  There are two major reasons for this.  Firstly, online beer delivery stores curate all the best craft beer brands and tell visitors what they need to know about them.  Secondly, they take the hassle out of getting bottles and cans of beer home safely.

Author: Jonathan Gillespie