Beer Trends to Watch, from a Top Brewmaster in North America

Some of the most important changes coming to the industry won't be advertised on a label 

KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • Beer drinkers crave flavorful, better-for-you and clean label options; manufacturers seek improved efficiencies such as a sped-up brewing process and the ability to produce more beer in the same square footage.
  • Technologies such as fruit flavor crystals, exogenous enzymes and vegan clarifying agents are on the rise.
  • Consumer groups such as those looking for gluten-free, diet and vegan beers are among those being considered in beer’s next wave. 

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

The average drinking-age consumer could likely name one big beer trend making waves in the industry right now: fruit-flavored beers are everywhere, from small craft breweries to convenience and grocery stores and all the places in between. But a number of smaller trends are growing behind the scenes, many of which will appeal most to manufacturers facing challenges such as ingredient storage and sourcing and the amount of time it takes to get a batch ready to bottle.

Here are six of the most exciting ideas brewing in the industry right now, based on customer requests that come into Kerry, hot topics at industry events and consumer insights.

Crystals are replacing juices.
Yes, fruit is everywhere in beer. But it too has evolved with new technologies. Whether you’re planning to work with citrus or new, of-the-moment juices such as mango, grapefruit and pineapple, there are many complications to consider. Handling aseptic juices is problematic with respect to logistics, such as storage, thawing, refrigerating, pumping and maintaining flavor while minimizing contamination risk.

Because of this, more and more manufacturers—including craft brewers—are switching to flavor crystals.

Our Crystal® products remove most of these challenges because they are dry, free flowing and rehydrate instantly with no lumps. Crystals are premium natural powder products, produced through a patented, low heat, continuous- vacuum process. This unique process maintains the flavor, color, acidity and nutritional properties of the original juice. The result is a compact product that is microbiologically safe and packed with fruity flavor and aroma while also being shelf-stable and able to impart the same taste authenticity as a juice.  

Brewers are testing out alternative grains.
In North America, there’s a general trend toward using alternative carbohydrate sources in all things food and beverage, and this is fast becoming a part of beer brewing. It used to be that all beer here was brewed completely from malt barley. Now brewers are adding, rye, rice, corn, wheat, oats, sorghum and more to introduce complexity. Wheat beer has a foam head that appeals to consumers, as well as a haziness. Wheat and rye can significantly add to the flavor profile of some beers. Sorghum is good for production of gluten-free beers (see more on this below), while rice and corn provide an alternative carbohydrate source for alcohol production, giving beers a lighter body and mouthfeel and attenuate the gravity of beer made from malt.

These are ingredients that, in Europe, Africa and Asia, are already part of a typical beer recipe. What brewers in these regions know—and what ones here in North America are beginning to find out—is that when you increase the use of alternative carbohydrates, you have to use exogenous enzymes to facilitate the degradation of the proteins, starches and lipids content of the grains.

Beer is being bottled at a record pace.
Have you ever searched for your favorite beer just before a big event, only to strike out and have to substitute an alternative brand? One big worry among manufacturers is product outages in the market. If your beer isn’t available, customers are disappointed and companies don’t earn profits.

One big limitation to simply making more beer is tank space. With most beers conventionally needing to sit in cold storage or maturation for around two weeks, you have a bit of a log-jam in the process, and you increase the risk of your beer developing a yeasty off flavor and oxidation. Some new brewing technologies, including one from Kerry’s brewing portfolio, can fast-track this process with enzymes and process aids, shortening the time to 5 or 6 days. This enables companies to produce more beer without the need for any additional cold storage facilities.

Ultra-low-calorie beers are within sight.
Right now, most brands are fighting beer’s traditional high calorie and “beer belly” association with low-calorie beers formulations and launches. These low-calorie options offers the consumers the benefit of beverages with about 80 to 110 calories per serving, around 30% fewer than regular lager beer. But many consumers would really prefer to drink a beer with less than 20 calories a serving, or even zero, especially if taste, aroma and mouthfeel are same as their regular beers. The better-for-you trend has swept all sectors of food and beverage industry, beer included.

The calories in beer come from the alcohol content and residual carbohydrates. Beer is sugar free—typically no sugar is added—but there are residual carbohydrates which can be degraded enzymatically to sugars such as fructose and glucose as the yeast ferments into alcohol. One way to easily decrease the calories in a beer is to decrease the alcohol, which is a trend we’re seeing more of. Some big manufacturers are starting to release beers that, instead of being the conventional 4 to 5% alcohol, are 2 to 3% maximum. (This doesn’t appeal to me personally but there does seem to be a growing market for it.)

Vegans and vegetarians are finally getting their due.
One of beer brewers’ biggest secrets is out, and vegetarians and vegans are not happy. For more than 200 years, a majority of beers have been produced with the clarifying ingredient isinglass, which comes from fish. Although this ingredient is almost impossible to detect by taste, as more consumers learn about its role in the process—especially those in the label-conscious Millennial and drinking age Gen Z set—the demand for wholly animal-free beers will only grow.

Many manufacturers are looking for a vegan clarifying solution. To fill this void, Kerry recently brought its Biofine Clear clean label processing aid to market, which accelerates yeast cell/protein haze sedimentation.

The next big thing will be production of gluten-free beer.
Traditional beer is not an option for the estimated 1 in 133 U.S. adults with celiac disease, which causes damage to the lining of the intestine when some cereal proteins are consumed, including those found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Among the solutions proposed to make a gluten-free, celiac-safe beer are the use of gluten-free raw materials—such as sorghum, corn, brown rice, millets, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa—and adjusting brewing process to remove trigger protein fractions. (Legislation to protect consumers with ingredient-based labelling is already enforced, but the only conclusive way of producing a gluten-free beer is to brew it from exclusively gluten-free raw materials and absolutely exclude any cross contamination with gluten sources.)

Although some manufacturers have begun to experiment with gluten-free beers, more innovation is needed. Kerry is actively working to craft solutions for brewers of all sizes. For instance, we’ve made advances in brewing with sorghum and corn and have developed a sorghum brewing portfolio of amylases, proteases, cellulases, glucanases and lipases exogenous enzymes and process ingredients and aids.

As tastes and preferences for beer change, it’s important to stay ahead of trend while also optimizing production. To learn more about our offerings for breweries, visit our section on Beer Brewing Ingredients. For help meeting consumer demand through the latest brewing innovations, contact Kerry.

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