I think we can all agree that 2016 was a terrible year. But the fates have been kinder than we might think – along with the losses we were given some of the best British beers ever made to solemnly toast with.
Forget Brexit and Trump, to me last year was the year of the Double IPA. It was the moment of glory for citrusy American hops and high ABVs, with craft brewers pushing both to their extremes. Averaging around 8.5 per cent ABV they were big, bittersweet and loaded with tropical and stone fruit flavours.
Brewing such beers isn't easy and the techniques brewers had to learn will have a huge bearing on what we'll drink in 2017.
The tropical flavours are here to stay thanks to the new exciting hops from the US and Australasia, but as a result we're going to see much more hazy beer.
This will be an educational challenge for barstaff because while cloudy pints used to be a sign of a under-conditioned beer, intentional haze is now strongly associated with hop flavour. So always check with the brewer and encourage customers to decide on the taste rather than the look of their pints.
The ABVs are also going to come down thanks to our duty laws. Strong beers are not profit makers, so sessionable varieties of these ultra-fruity beers are going to become the fashion. The bitterness level – known as IBU – will also drop as brewers go for drinkability.
I think craft beer is going to come of age in 2017 – to become more accessible and consistent. But there will be growing pains as people get used to the new ways that beer looks, smells and tastes.
The challenges are there, but so are the opportunities.