There was a time when beer was typically described as possessing a malty, hoppy or crisp taste.
IPAs (India Pale Ales) were usually characterised as fruity or floral while porter and stouts were often associated with terms such as nutty or with chocolate and coffee profiles. Meanwhile, wheat beers were described as tasting like bread while pilsners typically featured herbaceous notes.
For consumers unable to detect these subtle tasting notes, particularly between a saison and an IPA, beer often tasted like, well, beer and lacked the obvious varietal of flavours found in other alcoholic beverage categories. This became apparent particularly when alcopops or alcoholic drinks dominated in flavour by the carbonated sodas and fruit juices mixed into these RTD beverages grew in popularity.
As beer sales noticeably declined in mature markets over the past decade, major manufacturers looked to other categories for inspiration. Adding fruit became a growing trend with major brands, imitating the marketing dexterity and focus on limited fruity releases often found at craft breweries. Taking the radler or shandy as inspiration and adding lemonade quickly grew to beers with sweeter fruits, such as Hoegaarden Rosée, which features citrusy yet sweet raspberries along with other brands such as Samuel Smiths Organic Apricot Fruit Beer, which utilizes the summer appeal of the orchard fruit.
At one point, European beer launches used fruit flavouring in 12 per cent of all beer launches in 2014, declining to just 7 per cent in the first half of 2017, according to data from Mintel’s GNPD. Fruit beers are typically classified as beers with added fruit as a flavouring agent or additive and were initially targeted at female consumers and millennials who were shunning the beer category in preference for sweeter alcopops or spirits, which were perceived as offering more bang for buck.
The fruit beer market is forecast to register a CAGR of over 4 per cent by 2023 according to a global survey by Research and Markets, mainly driven by Latin American consumers. Regardless, craft breweries have used this confidence that consumers are willing to experiment with taste profiles within ale and consequently developed a slew of launches that bring more novelty into the beer category.
In Australia, Kellogg’s recently collaborated with One Drop Brewing Co., to incorporate its famed breakfast cereal into this tipple. Limited edition Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Nitro Milkshake IPA uses its signature flakes as the hero ingredient. The brew is described as a ‘creamy, full-bodied sweet beer with the right slice of hoppy bitterness” and came to market end of September 2019.
While pouring beer over breakfast cereal in lieu of milk is the stuff of legends, the pairing between the earthy yet sweet grain and the typical ‘wheat bread’ taste profile from the IPA suggests a complimentary marriage of flavours.
Moving onto dessert-inspired tasting notes, Vietnam’s Pasteur Street Brewing Company has become known for its Mint Chocolate Imperial Stout, a sturdy drink with 9% ABV. The pour, now available at Singapore’s minimalist Almost Famous craft beer bar, features the rich indulgence of mint chocolate, vanilla and hints of sweet coffee and recreates the decadence of an executive coffee in a pint glass.
Pasteur Street’s usage of mint chocolate is on trend. According to AI-enabled flavour prediction database Capchavate, the enticing combination of mint paired with chocolate has grown in 2019. While its typically found in treat formats and particularly in mousses, the usage of the moreish combination demonstrates its potential across other applications outside of desserts.
In May 2019, Singapore’s Archipelago Brewery and online grocery retailer RedMart teamed up to launch its first-ever collaboration beer, Code Red Lemongrass Pale Ale. The refreshing IPA was 4.5% ABV and was infused with lemongrass and jasmine, two Southeast Asian flavour staples. Lemongrass, commonly used to add an acidic element to curries is also ubiquitous as a soft drink flavour in the region, while jasmine is universally popular to scent and subtly sweeten green tea. With only 300 cases of 24 bottles brewed, the limited edition beer was developed squarely for the regional taste palate along with the flavoured beer-curious.
Back to teaming chocolate with beer. In the U.S, craft brewery Yuengling collaborated with Hershey’s to launch a limited-edition Yuengling Hershey’s Chocolate Porter, a draft pour that is available from autumn throughout the holiday season to Valentine’s Day. At a 4.7% ABV, the porter updates Yuengling’s nearly 200-year old Dark Brewed Porter recipe with the global chocolate brand. A press release states the brew “artfully blends Hershey’s chocolate with caramel and dark roasted malts for a smooth, rich and delightfully chocolaty finish.” It claims the drink pairs well with everything from barbequed and smoked meats, to cheeses and desserts.
Hazy Beets IPA was launched in April 2019 as a draft pour at Tokyo’s TY Harbor Brewery, a brewpub that has been established for 22 years. The 6.4% ABV IPA retailed at US$12.34 and was developed to celebrate the pub’s anniversary. Claimed to be a new style of vegetable beer, the drink’s earthy flavour and distinct colour was derived from the addition of beetroot. The drink featured an aroma of hops and orange with the typical bitterness associated with IPAs along with a silky and mellow aftertaste thanks to the vegetal ingredient.
So what? Consumer tastes have become more experimental with millennials in particular demanding more global as well as novel flavors. Future drinkers among older Gen Z consumers show no signs of this trend abating. With craft brews now emulated by global brands, smaller players have few options to differentiate their offerings apart from. premiumize their brews, target new audiences or introduce novel LTOs to stand out. By pairing beers with new taste profiles, breweries tap into growing demand for consumers seeking more than a hoppy or crisp aftertaste.
New beer flavours add experimental taste profiles to update the category