Years ago, I opened a bottle of Rogues Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale to share with friends.
It sounded like a dream, a combination of my three favorite foods: bacon, doughnuts and beer. And like many crazy beer enthusiasts, this crazy beer from the venerable Oregon brewer fit my quest to try the newest, biggest and baddest beers on the market.
But it was easily one of the worst beers Ive ever tasted. The smoke from the bacon and the syrupy mouth feel made it akin to drinking the drip tray on a grill. Other tasters agreed.
The experience came to mind recently when trading notes about beer trends for 2014 with a couple dozen brewers and industry pros.
Bobby Bush, the organizer of the Hickory Hops Brew Festival and the Carolinas Championship of Beers competition, made a statement that seemed contentious at first glance.
Not every beer is worthy of consumption, he wrote in response to saturation in the craft beer market.
But the more I thought back to the doughnut bacon maple ale and my own off-point homebrewing concoctions the more I realized Bush makes a good point.
And other craft beer experts agree, forecasting a trend in 2014 toward more modest, quality beers that drink well and dont overwhelm.
In recent years, weve seen much more interest in sour and wood-aged beers, but I think 2014 may bring more of an appetite for lower-ABV craft beers, said Les Stewart, the head brewer at Trophy Brewing & Pizza Co. in Raleigh and a creator of many interesting beers. This may extend to low-alcohol beer that are even outside of pale lagers and pale ales to traditional, if uncommon, Berliner Weisse and Gose-style beers.
Daniel Hartis, a Charlotte beer writer and author of the upcoming book Beer Lovers The Carolinas, sees the same: I think many people have begun to see the beauty in the less exotic side of the spectrum, and more breweries will focus on traditional styles of beer made well, he said.
One area that may see a resurgence is lagers, Hartis said. Budweiser is a lager, but the category is far more expansive.
The proof is easy to see in North Carolina, where Red Oak and The Olde Mecklenburg breweries specialize in the style. Lagers, unlike ales, use a yeast that ferments on the bottom instead of the top, and the beers undergo an extended cold-conditioning process.
Lagers, which have long been maligned among many craft beer drinkers, will continue to come into favor as people realize the term refers not just to the light lagers so many have known in the past, but rather a category of beers that can be almost as diverse and certainly as complex as their top-fermenting brethren, Hartis said.
The focus on consistency and quality is not just a style trend.
As more local craft breweries land on the map and taps remain limited, experts agree that beer buyers and consumers will demand options that taste good every time and for all occasions, not just flights of fancy.
What Im tasting
One such beer that holds a consistent place in my refrigerator: Triangle Brewing Co.s Belgian Golden. Packaged in a nondescript black can, it is a solid example of a Belgian beer that I often recommend to craft newcomers.
The fruity esters imparted by the Belgian yeast, a delicately spicy hop touch and the solid malt backbone offer a load of flavor in a light-colored, easy drinking pint. The one caution: its 8 percent alcohol by volume. Info: trianglebrewery.com.
Contact John at 919-829-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.