Bar Report 2013: Five Beer Trends


Wine used to steal the scene as the perfect accompaniment to gourmet dishes, but now beer is winning favour for the tasting notes it impartson a range of dishes, from ribs to duck confit. Keep reading for a list of five trends that are driving the bevvy to greater accalim.

1. Variety means more than lager and ale

In what is perhaps the biggest change in attitudes towards beer since the dawn of the millennium, consumers are no longer satisfied with a range of beer that only extends from golden lager to amber ale. Today, beer drinkers expect variety, from porters to pilsners, pale ales to wheat beers and fruit ales to seasonal specialties. Bar owners and restaurateurs are meeting that demand, offering at least a reasonable array of styles, strengths and flavours, if not the diversity of places such as Toronto’s Bar Volo or the three western Canada locations of the Craft Beer Market.

2. IPA soars in popularity

It’s said that bitterness is a learned flavour, which makes it surprising that the hottest craft beer style around today is India pale ale, more familiarly known as IPA — one of the hoppiest or most bitter of the traditional beer styles. Named for a pale ale exported from England to India during the days of the Raj, IPAs are generally slightly to quite a bit stronger than the average lager, and, in their more common American-inspired guise, packed with bitter, hop-derived flavours of citrus peel and resinous herbs. The failure to stock at least one or two examples, particularly in a beer-savvy urban setting, will result in the likely loss of beer drinkers by the dozen.

3. Glassware takes off

The days of one-size-fits-all beer glassware are behind us. Borrowing from diverse European traditions, including the ‘unique glass for every beer’ approach of Belgium, Canadian bars and restaurants today are finding consumers react better to unfamiliar beer if it’s served in its proper glassware. At the four Toronto locations of the Bier Markt, for instance, it would be unimaginable for a Bavarian wheat beer to be served in anything other than its typical vase-shaped glass.

4. A week of beer

The dedication of a week to beer might seem over-the-top, but it’s become one of the hottest concepts in beer marketing today. It could be an organized event — such as Vancouver Craft Beer Week — or a more informal grouping of events to complement a major beer festival, as happens when the Mondial de la Bière hits Montreal each summer, but whatever the situation, Beer Weeks are becoming big business. “Participating in a Beer Week can help bar or restaurant operators in a number of ways,” adds Cass Enright, a Toronto Beer Week board member. “It’s a great way to experiment with serving beer they might not otherwise carry or hosting an event they might not otherwise attempt, [and it’s] a smart opportunity to position their store as a place that is taking craft beer seriously.”

5. Drink local

With the culinary emphasis on local produce, and craft breweries popping up in the most unlikely locations, it’s hardly shocking that a growing number of bars and restaurants are choosing to stock locally brewed beers in addition to, or in place of, imports and major national brands. Similarly unsurprising is that consumers are responding with enthusiasm, whether at a place such as Toronto’s Rebel House, a self-styled ‘Canadian Tavern,’ or Vancouver’s Alibi Room, which emphasizes local brews on a list that also includes out-of-province beers and imports. l

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