Funky brews are gaining steam, but IPAs aren't going anywhere.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 23, 2018
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Credit: Tzogia Kappatou/Getty Images

Determining the fastest growing beer styles isn’t an easy job. Simply determining how styles breakdown is a challenge. For instance, the Great American Beer Festival offers 102 categories for beer to compete in—though for practical purposes, most people wouldn’t tease apart a Brown Porter from a Robust Porter. Still, seeing which styles are surging in popularity is an interesting prospect, so the well-known data company Nielsen gave it their best shot, looking at sales figures over the past 52 weeks. Then The Drinks Business broke down the results into a list of the nine fastest-growing beer styles.

Before jumping to the top spot, the second most popular style might be the most indicative of where the beer market is today: The ambiguously-named “other” style landed at number two—which speaks to the overall creatively currently happening in the beer scene. Granted, as a catchall, there’s a lot more wiggle room, but still, this category which includes things like rye beers and smoked beers saw sales growth of 11.2 percent, according to Nielsen, which isn’t bad for beers most people probably aren’t that familiar with.

Speaking of which, not that long ago, sour beers were a bit of anomaly, but apparently, these funky brews are a trend that won’t stop trending. With growth of 42.7 percent in the past year, sours were, by far, the fastest growing beer style in Nielsen’s data. And the category still has plenty of room to grow: In the past year, just $14.8 million was spent on sour beers—a mere 0.1 percent of all beer sales.

Finishing third was another style that seems to be experiencing endless growth: IPAs. Nielsen says that sales were still up 10.1 percent in the past year, despite now accounting for about $895.8 million in sales, or a not-too-shabby 6 percent of the overall beer market.

Rounding out the top nine: stouts, hybrids, porters, lagers, flavored, and low-and-no alcohol beers. That final category only saw growth of 0.1 percent in the past year, meaning we can assume that most other styles (that didn’t get slotted into the “other” category) like wheat beers or cream ales saw sales declines in the past year—which makes sense since beer sales overall were actually slightly down in 2017.