I don’t have a crystal ball, nor is my forté predicting the future. However, from what I’ve seen over the last while, certain trends in alcohol seem to exist and will likely carry on throughout 2018. Here are some.
The beer industry never seems to suffer, and no matter what, continues to thrive. What I see is the continued increase in craft breweries. Small to medium size producers are popping up everywhere creating incredible product. Not to lose out, many larger, commercial conglomerates are acquiring smaller, independent operations and great brewmasters so they can stay relevant, capture some of that market and maintain a sense of coolness. Over the last year, the IPA (India Pale Ale) style of beer has been on the rise with many consumers embracing it. I see no slow down in its growth. In fact, there is a newer style called “New England IPA” that seems to be gaining much interest. A little hazier and fruitier than most other versions, this newer style is poised to come on strong this year. Flavoured beers have always been a quiet, popular style among aficionados. I believe it will come to the foreground more in 2018.
When it comes to wine, there are several trends worth mentioning. No longer is the nectar of the grape solely the domain of restaurants and fine dining establishments, but is expanding into all-day, café/wine bar hybrids. Much of this metamorphosis has to do with the millennials who like to experiment and enjoy a glass of vino anywhere and anytime. I also see a rise in interest in bubbly, especially Champagne. Although always popular, this style of wine seems to have taken on new life, especially among the young. Speaking of youth, I’ve noticed in my travels that there is a much younger pool of sommeliers servicing the industry out there. Many look like they’re fresh out of grade school.
Perhaps this new trend is to help relate to the millennials who spend a lot of money on wine. More likely is the fact that the food and wine industry tends to demand longer hours of work from their employees to help PR and move product in establishments.
As a result, the average age of working sommeliers is young and will most likely continue to drop. We’ve all seen the rise in interest of “natural” (organic and biodynamic) wine over the last year or so.
But with the market saturated with products of varying quality, I am starting to see a decline in this area.
Perhaps some of the most notable trends are in spirits. Generally, craft spirits are on the rise. Small batch production of many styles is growing and wowing consumers everywhere. Of particular interest is craft gin. This spirit is becoming extremely popular.
Tequila and bitter spirits (flavoured with botanicals resulting in a sour, bitter or bittersweet character) like Campari, Fernet-Branca and Luxardo are taking centre stage.
Rye is becoming a popular choice of many consumers. One of the real interesting trends is the onsite barrel aging of drinks. Here, pre-mixed drinks or cocktails are placed in barrels somewhere in an establishment for a few weeks. This changes the flavour and mellows out the attack much like wine and spirits aged in barrel. Millennials are really digging this concept. And in keeping with cocktails, they are getting fancier, more extravagant and creative.
Edward Finstein is a wine writer, author, TV and radio host, educator, and judge. Connect with him at www.winedoctor.ca, thewinedoctor.blogspot.com, Twitter: @DrWineKnow, www.facebook.com/EdwardDocFinstein