Trend Watching: Is Beer Looking to ‘Sweeten’ Its Deal with Drinkers?

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Us humans are a fickle species.

For as much as we are individual snowflakes, there is still even more that binds us together, ingrained predispositions that go back to our earliest ancestors. Fight or flight, companionship and even the kind of food we like to eat.

While our tastebuds can take us in all sorts of directions – cilantro or soap? – there is still one unifying taste to which we return time and time again: sweetness. It’s a choice determined by our culture and biology, all the way into our chromosomes.


Via Nielsen, preferred tastes by gender for flavored alcoholic beverages. Click to enlarge.

So is it a surprise that it constantly finds a way to sneak into the drinks we love? Juices and sodas easily satiate a need for sweet, but even our booze continues to turn that corner, offering more options that either incorporate sweetness or tackle the taste straight on. After all, honey is the 2015 flavor of the year for a reason.

Whenever people talk about trends in beer, it’s always the same few things: sours, session IPA, lagers, cans.

That sour trend? We’ve wondered about it since 2011. Session IPA? Gaining steam since 2012. Lagers? Maybe consider source of flavor. Cans? It’s a vessel, not a trend.

Old feels new again all the time. Trying to talk about hot trends in beer ignores the fact it’s like jumping in a time machine and throwing a dart at a year to visit. “Trends” are cyclical or simply never ending. History can teach us that.

The next “big thing” in beer? It’s already here. It always has been.

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Poppa Don’t Preach: Do We Need ‘Craft Beer Evangelists’?


This summer, I presented at the annual Beer Bloggers Conference, sharing the spotlight with some talented writers.

In the day leading up to the presentation, I flipped through Twitter profiles of many other attendees, trying to match faces I’ve met with online identities I had known. Among many, there was a common denominator that connected writers.

“Craft beer evangelist”

I don’t know how many times I saw that phrase, or some variation thereof, captured in bios of social media accounts. It bothered me.

So when I stepped to the podium and had my chance to offer insight to the crowd of 150, I wanted to drive home a very specific point.

“We are advocates for our readers first,” I told them. “And then what we love.”

Increasingly, I’ve come across enthusiasts who put the idea of beer – specifically “craft” beer – on a pedestal. It’s Good vs. Evil or not fit for criticism.

That’s problematic.

Yes, we are fans. Yes, we have passion for this community and industry. But is “evangelism” necessary?

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Trick or Treat: October 2015 Beertography


The favorite holiday of ghouls and ghosts is nearly upon us, so let’s have a wonderfully topical collection of beertography to celebrate Halloween.

Below you’ll find a collection of spooky(!) and scary(?) beertographs from my archives you may also have come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find more beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

I hope you’ve got your Sexy Beer Bottle costume finished…

Big Boss Zombie – The Drinking Dead

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Left Hand Wake Up Dead – Rise and Shine

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Troegs LaGrave – Rest in Peace


Brewers Art Resurrection – Zombeerfied


Fullsteam Igor – Going Bump in the Night


Happy Halloween!


Here’s hoping November offers inspiration. As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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Semantics and the Search for a ‘Perfect’ Beer

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What is a perfect beer?

Ask the question and subjectivity runs amok.

Would it be our favorite beer? One that holds particular nostalgic value? A sum of specialized ingredients? Something that simply stands out as so different, it’s one of a kind?

There are many ways to consider what “perfect” means to us, especially in terms of a good or product. Generally speaking, when it comes to beer, the effort to define perfect often becomes a quantitative one, relying on beer rating websites that offer numeric value to a particular brew.

Westvleteren 12 is a perfect 100 on both Beer Advocate and RateBeer. Heady Topper and Pliny the Elder, too. Sorry, Dark Lord, you missed it by five points on Beer Advocate.

If those are examples of “perfect” beers, what does that mean for us? If a beer is perfect, should it also be a favorite? Or are those things utterly, completely, mutually exclusive?

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Craft Brew Alliance and the Search for a New ‘Local’

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There is great power in “local.”

It offers pride, ownership and often, a connection to intrinsic values. Between 2008 and 2014, sales of local food more than doubled to $11.7 billion. Local not only makes people feel good, but there’s money to be made in it, too.

So when it comes to the beer industry, the increasing attention paid to what’s local makes sense. Drinkers want a deeper connection to the product they love, but it also offers an opportunity for businesses to tap into the consciousness of a community. “Local” builds relationships.

As Maureen Ogle recently wrote, the idea of local has been that “the narrative helped build and bind the industry” with help from the Brewers Association. But what happens when that knot starts being pulled apart?

Perhaps it’s becoming a case where a successful beer doesn’t necessarily need to be local in geography, but simply in philosophy.

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Are We Watching the Next Stage of Sam Adams?

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Blink and you’ll miss it.

Among all the industry news of buyouts, investments and global mergers, we may be witnessing the pivot and turn of one of America’s most iconic breweries. While businesses are busy reimagining individual beers to lure back customers, another is making an adjustment in planning a decade in the making.

It’s certainly not a wholesale philosophical shift, but Sam Adams – and more specifically Jim Koch – is buying into a new approach.

And it may be a necessity.

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A Labored Effort: September 2015 Beertography


Labor Day has passed, the white clothing is tucked away and the last vestiges of summer are gone. Good a time as any for a new collection of beertography.

Below you’ll find some of my recent photos, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find more beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

Let’s see what this month had to offer…

Harpoon Take 5 – Lazy Labor Day

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AC Golden Colorado Native – Natural Habitat

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Troegs Java Head – Celebrating National Coffee Day

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Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout – No Crying Over Spilled Milk (When There’s Beer)

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Good People Bearded Lady – Ready for a Trim

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Here’s hoping October will continue to offer inspiration. As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

We are More Than Beer, Beer is More Than Us

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There’s an undeniable truth I have needed to come to terms with in recent years, despite what my loving mother and father may tell me otherwise.

I will never be the most famous Bryan Roth, let alone the most famous within a 12-mile radius.

That honor probably goes to Bryan Roth, professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, literally down the road from where I live.

There’s also Bryan Roth, co-founder of Geocaching HQ, which popularized the adventurous activity of finding hidden items placed all over the world.

There is also Bryan Roth, the poetfootball star and highlight reel lacrosse player.

Somewhere along the line, there’s also me, Bryan Roth, the beer lover.

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A Return to ‘The Pleasant Distraction’

There are always other things to do.

We have jobs and friends and responsibilities of life. But even then, there is always something else pulling us toward the multitudes of interests and passions we hold close. How we divide our time, through internal formulas working to extrapolate wants and needs, equates to each of our unique personalities.

If we pursue our goals both professional and personal, then the sum of our efforts shape who we are.

Most days, I seek to balance these fractions of my life with the help of this blog, which has become part of a weekly ritual. I may not be able to write every day, but through research, and more important, conversations, I’m able to further ferment my passion for beer, its industry and its culture.

That is to say, you’re as much to thank for pushing me as my internal drive. It’s why as I celebrated an award for my work this weekend, I have nothing but appreciation for the people I’ve met along the way and the things (I hope) we learn together.

On Saturday, the North American Guild of Beer Writers announced I had finished first in the category of “Best Beer Blog” at its annual awards ceremony. I’m thrilled to share this recognition with Oliver Gray, finishing second for Literature and Libation, and Jeff Alworth, placing third for his contributions at All About Beer. The work of both these men educate and inspire me and I’m so happy to be included with them for the same award.

But most of all, I’m excited to share this award with you. Whether you’re an everyday reader sorting through the archives, a commenter who has shared in conversation or simply stopping by for the first time, I’ve been lucky to find my voice and learn new things because of interactions with people like you.

There will always be something else trying to gain my attention – often deservedly so – but I love using this space as a way to grow with you through a greater appreciation for all things beer.

So as I revel in an awfully exciting moment for me, I want you to know, Dear Reader, that I’m forever appreciative of how you influence me. I strive to think creatively and provide my love of beer in a unique way, and it means so much that I get to share that with you.

There are lots of shiny objects floating around all of us, reflecting constant reminders of where we should focus our attention. Thanks for letting me distract you.

This is an updated repost of last year’s announcement. The year may have changed, but my feelings about receiving this recognition has not. I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for those that read my blog, the friends I’ve made because of it and the opportunities it’s presented me. I am humbled and grateful.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Reporter’s Notebook: The Hidden Game of Buying Beer

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We are all unique snowflakes.

We pride ourselves for the power of individual thought. Nobody else is like us. Nobody else can influence us.

We do what we want, what we like and what we need.

Except when we don’t.

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