‘The emphasis for hops over the past five years has really changed. Now, people are interested in flavour,’ says Dr Peter Darby from Wye Hops, the research centre for the British hop industry. ‘This interest came from America, but it is now an interest throughout the world. Some want novelty; others want something they haven’t tried before. But everyone is looking for distinct flavours.’
But why are people seeking hoppier beers? ‘They call it hop creep in the US,’ says Paul Corbett, MD of hop merchant Charles Faram. ‘Hop creep is the way that our palates have developed by drinking very highly hopped beers.’
Just like imbibing in products with additional sugar or salt can make food and drink with reduced additives taste rather empty, hop creep has developed a desire for more shouty beer styles and readied people’s palates for intensity. Similar to the way 15 years ago the demand for tropical and increasingly heavily-oaked Chardonnays led to people seeking out more easy-drinking Pinot Grigios, hop creep may indeed lead to something more sessionable replacing the punchy IPA trend.
‘Session beer is absolutely the next trend. Why? Because these highly-hopped IPAs are great, but we can only drink a small glass of them,’ says Ali Capper, hop farmer and spokesperson for the British Hop Association. ‘What Americans have worked out is that, to be commercially successful, they need to provide beer that you can drink glass-after-glass of. British hops are fantastic for session beers – we know this because we invented session beers in the first place.’