Perhaps the two hottest beer trends this year are the continued growth of Hazy / New England IPAs and the emergence of the polarizing glitter beers. Looking over the last four years of Google Trends searches of Hazy IPA / NEIPA / New England IPA shows they are still hot, and arguably getting hotter:
In addition, as I noted earlier, “Hazy IPA” is largely a West Coast term for these juicy tasting unfiltered IPAs, while “New England IPA” is used predominantly in the Central and Eastern United States, and these regional uses of the terms continues.
On the other hand, glitter beer was the hot spring sensation, with Google searches for “glitter beer” peaking in March:
Glitter beer searches have basically dropped back into the noise. Is glitter beer dead? I’m not sure I’d write it off as a one-time fad but for now, people aren’t looking for them on Google.
I want to hate it. As much as I love beer as a beverage and a culture, it has a long history of insipid gimmicks. Glitter beers seems like just the latest in the long line of them.
Then I read Jeff Alworth’s deep dive on the subject, and realized in many ways, there’s more to it than that. As Alworth points out, the recent popularity of Hazy IPAs is partially driven by how they look. Now I don’t particularly find floating crud in a glass aesthetically pleasing, but clearly a lot of other people do. In an age where virtually anyone can broadcast images all over world with their hand held phone, Hazy IPAs have enjoyed a rapidly growing popularity in a way that couldn’t be replicated at any other time in beer’s long history.
Brewers used visual tricks to engage drinkers long before Hazy IPAs. For example, Belgian brewers are notorious for their history insisting all sorts of contrived glassware is required to properly enjoy their beer. Of course, this really has little to do with how the glassware affects the taste and aroma of the beer, but how it looks in the funky goblet. Brewers have long taken considerable effort in the brewing process to ensure each batch has the same look. They’ve used all sorts of brewing gadgets and processes that date back centuries to clarify beer, or otherwise change the way it looks, which often have little or no effect of the final product’s taste or aroma.
Glitter beer is yet another example of brewers pushing that envelope. We normally think of brewing innovation in terms of ingredients or technique that creates a unique tasting beverage. And while brewers have been coming up with all sorts of wonderful new flavors and riffs on tried and true beer styles, these new beers still come in the same yellow, orange, amber, and black color. But all the senses, including sight, contribute to the beer drinking experience and brewers seem to be increasingly aware of this, with social media as the catalyst.
I think it’s also worth mentioning craft beer community seems somewhat receptive to glitter beer, largely because craft brewers are the ones brewing these beers. Glitter beers seem to be appealing more to women and female craft brewers have been instrumental in driving the craze. But if a huge corporate brewery like ABInBev released something like Bud Lite Glitter, I think it would almost certainly be denounced as some crass marketing gimmick cynically aimed at women.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Hazy IPAs. I don’t find murky brews attractive and they might taste juicy, but the hop flavors seemed muddled in the haze. Glitter beers? I’ve never had one, initially tho they were a pretty stupid gimmick, but now I’m intrigued by them. Of the many things you can say about glitter beers, they’re a study of fluid dynamics in a glass which appeals to the physics geek in me. (Check out this video or that video to see for yourself.) As someone who once claimed, with tongue partially in cheek, that glitter beers were a hideous diabolical plot to destroy Western Civilization, I think we’ll survive OK with glitter beers in our world.
(Glitter beer image from boldmissybrewery/Instagram.)