Mitch Steele of New Realm Brewing Co. and chairman of the Board of Directors for the Georgia Brewers Guild shares his vision of the American market.
What beers styles did your customers gravitate to this year? You have been through many stages of the brewing industry in the United States, what future trends do you think we should look out for?
It looks like IPA is still going to be the king of craft styles for the continued future, but also looks like lager brewing and lighter styles are taking a real stronghold. I always look to what brewers are gravitating towards, and right now, that’s lager. Still, alternative beverages are being brewed by more and more traditional breweries. I told someone recently that yeast is the new hop, and what I meant by that is that brewers and beer drinkers are talking about the yeast strains with increasing frequency. In addition, the ongoing research into hop biochemistry and reactions in fermenting beer have given brewers new avenues to explore.
Do you think any of these trends will have permanency?
I think most of what I mentioned will. Not sure about the long term strength of ready-to-drink cocktails, they could fade fast like seltzers or be a major player for many years. Cold IPAs may follow the same trend of other IPA offshoots, I’m not sure about the staying power of that style yet, though I like them!
What beers styles did your customers gravitate to this year?
We brewed an American Lager with the Rock Band Blackberry Smoke, and the response to that beer has been phenomenal. IPAs are still big for us, but we’re seeing that our customers want choices, so we’re doing many different beer styles and more lagers than I ever thought we would.
What beer styles most excite you to make?
Honestly, any style I’ve never brewed before, or a beer using a new yeast, hop or malt. I love being early to the game on innovation.
What is your favorite beer experience of all time?
I have so many, but I pick this one: Shortly after I published the IPA Book, hop grower John Segal reached out to me and said he had a bottle of Ballantine Burton Christmas Ale brewed in the 1940s that was gifted to his late father in the 1960s. He wanted to share it with me. I had written extensively in my book about Ballantine, and also about Segal Ranch and their contribution to the popularity of the Cascade hop. He brought this incredibly rare beer with him to the American Hop Convention at Sierra Nevada in 2013, and we popped it open and shared it with several brewers that were there. It was nectar. It had lost some carbonation, but was smooth and flavorful as could be.
If there is one person you could have a beer with who would it be and why?
Ted Lasso.1 I love Fuller’s pubs, and would love to sit with him and Beard for a bit of time over good beers.
About Mitch Steele
He has been brewing beer professionally for more than 34 years, studying brewing science at the University of California Davis and home brewing prior to becoming a professional brewer. Since 1988, Mitch has managed brewing operations and innovation with four different breweries, including 14 years with Anheuser-Busch followed up by 10 years at Stone Brewing in San Diego county, where he managed all brewing operations as Stone Brewing grew from a 50,000 bbl operation to one of the top 10 largest craft brewers in the country, operating 4 separate breweries in 2 countries. In 2012, Mitch authored the Brewers Publications book IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale, and in 2014 the Brewers Association awarded Mitch with the prestigious Russell Scherer Award for innovation in craft brewing. In addition to his duties at New Realm Brewing Co., Mitch currently chairs the Brewers Association Supply Chain Sub-Committee and sits of the Board of Directors for the GA Brewers Guild.
1 : Ted Lasso is a fictional character from the eponym sports comedy-drama television series