Craft brewers, bar owners, and other members of the beer industry have descended on Washington, D.C. this week for the Craft Brewers Conference. We’ll be watching closely for news coming out of the conference as it rolls on, but we’ve already read one interesting tidbit from Chris Staten Draft Magazine, who was on hand for the “State of the Craft Beer Industry” address by Paul Gatza of the Brewers Association:

According to Gatza, amber lagers and wheat beers are losing steam. Sales of the two styles have declined significantly in the last year within the craft beer market, which is a trend he suggests might continue. On the flipside “other specialties,” a kind of catchall experimental category (think 100-percent Brett beers and other wonderful oddities that don’t fit into traditional styles) is the second-fastest growing category.

This fact confirms something we’ve noticed at beer bars in NYC, which don’t serve as many of these easy-going beers that aficionados refer to as “entry level” brews, since wheat beers tend to have a gentle character that is widely appealing, and amber ales tend toward malt sweetness rather than aggressive hops.

It could be that brewers are simply losing interest in these beers as newly popular styles like sours, black IPAs, and barrel-aged stouts offer new pastures to play in. But this shift probably also says something about the evolving palate of the American craft beer drinker. The days when Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was considered a hoppy beer are long gone, and now, the result of years of pushing beers to the extreme in terms of hops of ABV may be that consumers are bored with more subtle styles.

Of course, running counter to this trend is the increasing interest in low-ABV session beers, so maybe people just don’t like wheat beers and ambers.

[via DRAFT Mag]