Close Menu

Analysis: Should craft beer drop the hop?

Our monthly analysis of the latest trends in the drinks trade – with the help of Euromonitor International’s Spiros Malandrakis – looks at the scope for further experimentation in beer away from hop-heavy brewing into more sessionable, quaffable drinks.

Beer hops are used to give beer a bitter flavour, and fight against harmful bacteria during fermentation (Photo: Wiki)

Beer’s identity has been increasingly adopting ever more polarised hues and a distinctly binary positioning.

On the one hand, inoffensive, quaffable, lighter and mainstream offerings occasionally mask their unassuming personalities behind colourful labels, adjectives and more-or-less artificial additives.

On the other hand, bold, quirky, irreverent and relentlessly hoppy, craft beer is ferociously carving its corner while encroaching on Big Beer’s territory, one pint at a time.

And this is exactly where one of the micro-brewing revolution’s unique selling points becomes its Achilles heel.

Beers with explosive hop levels might be great conversation starters and recruiting tools for millennial apostles of the craft gospel.

But they are also, by definition, not tailored towards long drinking sessions.

The rising spectre of an impending hop shortage – and the current reality of skyrocketing prices – highlights the logistical dangers of the on-going zesty and bitter overkill.

It also underscores the need for alternative points of differentiation.

With water, malted grain and yeast being the only other key ingredients, it should not come as a surprise that the latter may be the new aromatic weapon of choice in brewers’ ever expanding arsenals.

And while yeast is best positioned to take the mantle from hops as the vehicle of choice for experimentation (a crowdfunding campaign was only recently launched to commercialise the world’s first ‘vaginal beer’), water and a widening range of grains will also get their spot in the limelight.

Yet beyond chemistry and marketing alchemy, beyond rock star hops and unlikely microbes in yeast, the focus will increasingly shift on sessionability.

H41 from Heineken

H41 has been available at Heineken’s visitors centre in Amsterdam since December but will be rolled out in Italy before becoming available in selected retailers in the Netherlands.

It is apparently made with a rare yeast that has been confirmed as the ‘mother’ yeast of Heineken’s A strain – the building block of Heineken lager since 1886 – and discovered in Patagonia.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No