Don Russell's (Joe Sixpack) latest column recently got the gears in my head turning. It's about the wave of innovation going on in Italian craft brewing. (Italy - the next great brewmaster?)
The future of craft beer is in complex flavors. Its very important to recognize that complexity need not necessarily be at the cost of drinkability. The future is in the sophistication of people's palates and new and intriguing flavors. Whether this will come from advances in the art of brewing microbiology and yeast or finding new flavors in spices and herbs - I'm not sure. But thats where we're going. Hops will never go out of style but brewers who cannot think outside of hopping extremes are doomed to repeat Imperial one-dimensionality. Those who can respect the past but have the vision and the guts to think beyond its stylistic limitations will do well. Many forward-thinking folks across many different industries are already doing it. With beer a very niche group is getting it but its really going to take changing the way people think about beer - a beverage pigeonholed to the masses by many years of effective marketing. We are starting to undo this. There is still a long way to go. We have to continue to cross lines and blur boundaries. Beer versus wine? ~ that is just the beginning. There is no room for competition or argument - as far as I'm concerned it's all art.
... Unconventional yeast strains, bacterial cultures, spices, herbs, nuts and berries, wooden aging, different aging techniques, different sources of fermentable sugars ... there is more .. we just have to dream it up.