2017-08-02 / Featured / Taste

Intense hops, fruits and sours: Brew experts talk craft beer


Cathy and Arthur Allen weigh pellet hops at their storefront in Midlothian. The Allens opened Artisans Wine and Homebrew in 2014, supplying ingredients and equipment for making beer and wine. 
ASH DANIEL Cathy and Arthur Allen weigh pellet hops at their storefront in Midlothian. The Allens opened Artisans Wine and Homebrew in 2014, supplying ingredients and equipment for making beer and wine. ASH DANIEL From intense hops to fruits and sours, brew experts talk craft beer trendsIndia pale ales may still be king of the craft beer jungle, but two other styles have recently gained traction on taps around the country: fruit beers and sours.

The first uses fruit or fruit flavorings to change the flavor of beer, and is often reminiscent of juice. The latter uses bacteria or yeast to fashion a beer with a sour flavor.

Arthur and Cathy Allen opened Artisans Wine and Homebrew in Midlothian in 2014. The Allens supply both breweries and homebrewers with the ingredients they need to make the sudsy stuff, witnessing the changes in the craft beer market first-hand.

CO: Up until recently, what was the most popular trend in craft beer?

Arthur: IPAs. Everything’s been IPAs for at least the last three years that we’ve been in business. It started with normal IPAs. Last summer [brewers were] uber-hopping IPAs, which hasn’t held up, but it’s morphing into the [unfiltered, hazy] New England style [IPAs]. Rather than have a lot of bitterness upfront, you’re getting more of the juicy flavors on the back, so they’re doing late-addition hops [during the brewing process] or dry-hopping in the kegs.

I think the biggest trend this year, though, has been the fruit beers. Back in probably February we started getting requests for fruit purees, and the one that was toughest [to stock] was the passionfruit. We had breweries asking for it, we had everybody asking for it.

Cathy: And now it’s the mango. We’ve got that as well. Those purees are in our arsenal.

Arthur: People were using the [fruit] flavorings, and now they want to go to the actual fruits, so we’re carrying the fruit purees. We’ve been carrying them for years, but it’s started to take off this year. It’s one of those things where you can’t keep enough of it in.

Cathy: It’s mainly for wine makers, puree, but now it’s the beermakers that are going after it.

CO: Compared to last year, how have your sales for fruit puree been this summer?

Arthur: Last year, if we saw three or four cans sold in a month, that was pretty good. We brought in a case of passionfruit [this summer] and it was gone in a week. That’s six [cans], and for the month, we probably sold eight … and that’s not to mention all the other ones, the raspberries, the strawberries, the blueberry, [the mango]. Everybody wants to try a fruit beer now.

CO: And when did you start seeing a shift to sours?

Arthur: We really started to see the sours come into play last fall. People were asking us [for them], we started selling more of the bugs [bugs are the Allens’ nickname for the bacteria used to make sours]. We’ve always had them, but it was one of those things where we’d bring it in and may or may not sell it. They’re only good for a certain period of time. Now we try to keep a stock of them because somebody’s going to come in and ask for a particular one.

The other complication with sours is most people [have to] dedicate equipment to do a sour, because anything [brewed on the equipment] after that has the risk of tasting sour. There’s new processes that people are using. One’s called a kettle sour. It supposedly helps to keep from souring your equipment, but that’s always a risk.

CO: What causes these changes in the popularity of different beers?

Arthur: Someone flies somewhere in the country and tastes a beer and goes, “Oh,” and next thing you know, it’s on the East Coast. A lot of them start on the West Coast.

CO: What do you see coming next on the beer horizon?

Arthur: The stouts are starting to come into play now. People are going to start coming in asking for stout recipes. … You want to do your stouts about now, August, July-August, so they’re ready for the Christmas season.

Cryo Hops just came out. … They use the whole hop itself. If you break [a hop, the flower that gives beer its flavor] apart and look inside of it, there’s a yellow powder inside, and now they’re starting to produce just that, which makes it extremely strong in that flavor for that hop. They’re now releasing that for homebrewers, and we’re about to get our first batch of that [this] week.

We talked to MASH [Mentoring Advanced Standards of Homebrewing], the local homebrew club, [and asked] would they be interested. Everybody said, “Yeah, we gotta get that.” I suspect that will be the next craze. ¦

Return to top