Trend spotting when it comes to beer is not as easy as it sounds.
The history of chocolate goes back around 4,000 years when the Mokaya people in Central America made chocolate beverages.
With nearly 1,800 breweries in the U.S. (up from 42 when I reached legal drinking age in 1978) and countless imported brands, beer companies are constantly engaged in “look at me” marketing. This is the process of announcing the latest imperial this, double that or oddball ingredient that makes the beer “unique.” The brewer is trying to make the best beer possible, but what the marketing folks really are hoping for is news coverage, social media buzz and word of mouth among customers.
The first sign of any success in the market usually brings out the copycats. This makes it almost impossible to determine if it is a genuine trend or just a passing fad. A legitimate trend brings with it a group of beers that have staying power. Only time will tell.
A couple of years ago the “Your Next Beer” column looked at coffee and chocolate beers after it was clear a number of craft brewers were doing more than making experimental batches with these ingredients. Both categories have flourished, with some very nice beers built around these flavors. And if Great American Beer Festival medals are any indication of trends, both coffee and chocolate now have their own categories—chocolate graduated this year from the “Herb and Spice” division.
The history of chocolate goes back around to 4,000 years ago when the Mokaya people in Central America made chocolate beverages. The Aztecs and Mayans were making a spicy drink from the ground beans of cacao tree for hundreds of years before Spanish Conquistadors arrived. Aztecs actually used cacao to pay tributes to their rulers. Pueblo peoples also had a history of using cacao seeds long before any European had ever tasted chocolate. These were not sweet drinks, since refined sugar was not added. But they clearly started our almost instinctual craving for chocolate.
Craft brewers are increasingly experimenting with chocolate. The flavor swings can be pretty dramatic, from something sweet like a Hershey’s Kiss to a more bitter experience like Baker’s chocolate.