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New year, new beer! Here's what 2017 will taste like

Expect more barrel-aged and sour beers – after the past year was dominated by IPAs.

As the craft beer industry grows, brewers have to get creative with the styles of beer they make. That gives us beer drinkers a lot to look forward to this year.

Here's a look at the styles of beer we'll likely see a lot of in 2017, both in Minnesota and nationally.

Hoppy

IPAs continued to dominate in 2016, both across the country and in Minnesota. And the hoppy beers aren't going anywhere.

Tom Whisenand, the president of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild and the co-founder of Indeed Brewing, told GoMN that Minnesota "tends to be a pretty hop-thirsty market," and it's rare for a brewery to open without having an IPA on tap.

IPAs, which continue to get more diverse in flavor and variety, will still be "incredibly important" to craft beer in 2017, Bart Watson of the Brewers Association, told GoMN. But you might not see as many from small, independent brewers this year.

That's because large brewers have put their focus on IPAs.

"That doesn't mean independent brewers should ignore IPA, but rather they may have fewer headwinds in other styles," Watson said, noting independent brewers should look to other styles if they want to grow their business (more on those styles below).

Barrel-aged

Beers aged in wood barrels have become a craft beer standard, award-winning brewer Dave Hoops, who will open Hoops Brewing in Duluth this spring, wrote in an editorial in the Duluth News Tribune.

Expect that to continue this year, but with more variety. Hoops says brewers will use barrels and cases that distilled bourbon, tequila, sherry, wine, brandy and other alcohols to age their beer and give it a unique flavor.

Sours

A handful of Minnesota breweries began exploring sour beers last year, and that'll continue.

The style offers a new array of flavors to beer drinkers, and also another entry point for people into craft beer who don't like the dark, hoppy stuff, Whisenand says.

Sours are not cheap or easy to make. But that hasn't stopped local brewers from talking about them, Whisenand says, noting Indeed is among the local breweries that plans to grow its sour program this year.

Lagers and the not-so-hoppy brews

There's been "strong growth" in the lager category lately, according to the Brewers Association. And this will become an important style in the year to come.

Lagers are a more challenging style of beer to brew and they take longer to age, so they do cost more to make, Hoops writes. But breweries are finding it's worth it – especially because beer drinkers are starting to ask for them more often.

Lagers – along with pilsners, golden/blonde ales and European-style beers that are lighter and easier to drink – are gaining popularity because not everyone likes the bitter flavor that can come with a hop-heavy brew, Whisenand notes.

Other things to watch for this year

  • Growth in Minnesota: There are eight breweries already lined up to open in Minnesota this year, Whisenand says, noting growth this year is expected to be similar to what it was in 2016, with 16-20 new breweries opening up in the state. Expect large breweries in Minneapolis to small taprooms in greater Minnesota.
  • Maybe a new MN beer event?: The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild will continue to have its events and festivals this year, and it's looking to add a beer competition – like the Great American Beer Festival, but for Minnesota, Whisenand said.
  • Consolidation nationally: Keep an eye out for more breweries to consolidate – bigger ones will continue to buy smaller ones, making it a little tough to figure out who exactly is making your beer. Read more about the "illusion of choice" that we could see this year in this story from CraftBeer.com.
  • More on style: Because big breweries are stepping on the toes of small breweries in terms of the styles they're brewing (IPAs, for example), independent breweries will likely move into making more sessionable styles that were traditionally made by those big brewers, the Brewers Association says.

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