New Beer's Eve: Alberta craft brewery trends to watch in 2018

With so many new craft breweries open in Alberta, it might seem like a daunting task to sift through a sea of suds. Here's what you need to know to stay ahead of the curve.

Barrel-aging and one-offs to become more widespread next year, says brew expert

Thinking of raising a glass of craft beer this New Year's Eve ... or sometime in the new year? There's been some great products brewed in Alberta this year, and there's more to come in 2018. (Petr David Josek/Associated Press)

While you may not need an excuse to tip back a bottle on New Year's Eve, it doesn't hurt to have a good excuse for why you have a hangover on the first day of 2018.

With around 80 craft breweries up and running and another 20 or so expected to open in Alberta over the next year, it might seem like a daunting task to sift through a sea of suds.

Haydon Dewes of The Daily Beer blog joined the Calgary Eyeopener for a "beer in review" and a look ahead at what local companies will be brewing up in the new year.

Barrel-aged beers

Dewes says brewers are going to become "more specialized" as competition increases and barrel-aged beers will increase in popularity next year.

He says a beer aged in wine or spirit barrels "develops a nice complexity" and takes on the flavour of whatever liquid was previously in the barrel.

Haydon Dewes says barrel-aging is already a big trend among Alberta breweries and he expects that to continue as producers try to stand out from their competitors. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Dewes recommends trying Troubled Monk Brewery's new release called "Plumb Out of Puns, a plumb, barrel-aged beer" that's been aged for 15 months.

There's also Big Rock Brewery's barrel-aged three pack that Dewes says is great for sharing.

One-off beers

Breweries need to be innovative and interesting to keep up with the competition, and limited runs of one-off beers is another rising trend with local breweries, Dewes says.

He says a big part of craft beer is finding something new. One-offs give beer aficionados a chance to try something that might never be available again.

"I think it's a craft beer thing where people want to try as many different beers as possible," Dewes said. "For better of for worse, people just want to tick the boxes sometimes and say 'yep, I've tried 5,000 different beers and I'm out to find even more.'"

Competition might end co-operation 

Dewes says Calgary has two "brewery clusters" — the southwest's Barley Belt and the Beermuda Triangle in the northeast — where breweries have opened up very close to one another.

Dewes says it won't be long until the total number of craft breweries in Alberta is more than 100. With an increase in competition, Dewes says he thinks the days of co-operation between Calgary breweries might be coming to an end. (CBC)

So far this has led the breweries to work together to help drive business, but Dewes suspects the days of co-operation in Calgary might be coming to an end.

"What we may see in 2018 is the end of the friendliness that we're seeing in the craft beer market at the moment," he said. "You're going to reach a point where the bottom line will matter and suddenly, as competition heats up, maybe [breweries] don't want to be as friendly to the people next to them." 

So what should I drink on New Year's Eve?

If you're searching for the ultimate Calgary craft beer to ring in the New Year, Dewes says you might have a bit of a hunt on your hands.

Village V might be the one of the most difficult one-off Calgary beers to find. The extra strong, 10 per cent alcohol brew is already sold out. (Village Brewery )

Dewes says Village V, brewed for the fifth anniversary of Village Brewery, has been barrel-aged three times and is also a very rare one-off beer.

"You're going to have to struggle to find it but if you can get ahold of it, it's going to keep you warm," Dewes said." It's around 10 per cent alcohol, perfect for a cold winter's night."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener