WSET beer experts on what’s trending this year

Beer trends from WSET experts WSET’s beer experts (L-R) Mirella Amato, Natalya Watson, Sara Hobday and Malcolm Venter.

The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is delving into the dynamic world of beer and taking a look at the trends for the year 2024. Its beer experts have weighed in on what’s to come, from the rise of genetically modified yeast in brewing to the expansion of the no- and low-alcohol category.

Malcolm Venter, WSET educator, trainer and course developer, believes that genetically modified yeast in brewing will grow even more in 2024.

Mirella Amato, senior business development manager for beer, is excited to see interesting regional styles gain more traction globally.

Sara Hobday, our head of research and curriculum for beer, shares her insights into sustainability and technology in the beer industry.

Natalya Watson, our EMEA business development manager for beer, shares her trending styles for the new year. 

GM yeast

Malcolm Venter says that one of the recent trends in brewing involves the use of genetically modified yeast, such as thiolated yeast. This yeast is tweaked to produce more enzymes, unlocking thiols from malt and hops, and giving beer fruity and tropical aromas like mango, guava and passion fruit.

English and European hop varieties are rich in these precursors, potentially allowing UK and European breweries to craft styles like Hazy and New England IPAs, traditionally reliant on imported American hops, with locally sourced ingredients.

This innovation draws inspiration from research initially focused on intensely fruity white wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc. 

Another stride in this domain is the development of yeast strains naturally producing terpenes, mimicking hop-derived aromas and offering a sustainable solution as climate change affects hop harvests worldwide.

Regional styles

One thing Mirella Amato is enjoying is seeing several regional styles from various countries gaining more attention internationally. This includes Catharina Sour, New Zealand Pilsner, Italian Grape Ale, Dorada Pampeana, Sahti and Koyt.

In the coming year, it looks like Polish brewers will be making a big push to expand the reach and understanding of Grodziskie, a style made entirely from oat-smoked wheat malt.

“It’s so great to be able to access these styles from around the world, whether they’re imported or locally brewed,” Mirella says.

‘Green’ technology

Brewing uses a significant amount of water and energy and can create a lot of waste. So, one of the most encouraging beer industry trends is innovation and improvement in sustainability, says Sara Hobday.  

“We are seeing larger breweries harness technologies to reduce environmental impact, focusing on a range of areas such as carbon and heat capture, water conservation and waste management. Some of the technology is starting to become more accessible to smaller breweries as well,” Sara notes.

In addition, breweries can make a difference in a variety of ways, including sourcing ingredients more locally to reduce transport emissions, choosing ingredients grown using sustainable or regenerative practices, using renewable energy and more eco-friendly packaging where possible.

“The climate is like beer: it’s not good warm!” Sara says. There’s a lot more to be done, so it’s great to see more and more breweries stepping up.

Hazy IPAs

For decades, drinkers have associated the IPA beer style with a bold, bracing bitterness and potentially challenging hop aromas of pith, pine and resin. But that’s not actually what most IPAs being brewed today taste like, says Natalya Watson.

Over the last few years, craft breweries have largely shifted to a substyle of IPA, called hazy or New England IPA, that focuses less on hop bitterness and more on hop aroma and flavour, specifically citrus, stone fruit and tropical fruit notes that give this beer its nickname of “juicy” IPA.?

In Natalya’s experience, most people that try a hazy IPA are pleasantly surprised by the style’s lower level of bitterness, the touch of sweetness in the balance, its juicy, tropical fruit character and the soft, fluffy mouthfeel which comes from the addition of wheat or oats.

“It tastes nothing like those aggressively bitter and unpleasant IPAs that helped to define the early craft beer movement in the 1990s and 200s,” she says. But, as IPA is still in the name, she imagines that there are plenty of drinkers who have yet to give this sub-style a go.

“I think we’ll only see it continue to grow, as craft brewery buy-outs bring hazy IPAs to a more mainstream audience, and more drinkers realise that the IPA has evolved,” she adds.

Sour power

While most beers use bitterness from hops to balance out malt’s sweetness, some beer styles – often nicknamed sour beers – use acidity for balance instead. They are brewed using a mixed fermentation that involves both brewer’s yeast and bacteria, which contribute to the styles’ sour taste.

Many of these styles are also brewed with added fruit, which brings a range of colours and flavours, alongside the refreshing acidity. What is interesting to Natalya is that they tend to have the power to win over people who wouldn’t typically consider themselves beer drinkers - especially people who prefer wine or cider.

No-Lo to grow

The no- and low-alcohol beer segment has seen a steady rise over the last few years, both in draught and packaged formats, and this category is expected to continue to grow.  

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, 85% of UK pubs now offer alcohol-free beers, and supermarkets continue to expand the range of no- and low-alcohol beer brands that they offer.  

UK breweries are not just offering low and no lagers, but stouts, hazy IPAs and other styles. In the UK alcohol-free beer makes up approximately 2% of total beer sales. In countries like Germany (7%), France (10%) and Spain (16%) sales are higher.

WSET launched its Level-1 and Level-2 awards in beer this year, adhering to its interactive learning style and unique systematic approach to tasting (SAT) focused on look, smell and taste to the world of beer education. To find out more, visit