The 'Flat Beer Trend' Is Not a Trend

Lee Breslouer

Last week, when nobody was reading anything on the Internet, Bloomberg Business published a story on the trend of flat beers, aptly titled "Still Ales: What You Need to Know About the Flat Beer Trend." Beyond the pun headline, the report delves into brews produced mostly across the US, sans carbonation. Here's the thing: the trend is bullshit.

Thrillist sent the Bloomberg article to several beer experts to find out if "flat" is the new "gose" for the sake of confirming or dispelling the latest craze. And the experts agreed: this isn't a true trend. Of the beers mentioned by Bloomberg, including De Struise Brouwers' Cuvée Delphine on Steroids, and Hair of the Dog Brewing Company's Dave, the most widely available brew is Boston Brewing Company's Samuel Adams Utopias. The rest, however, aren't exactly showing up at your grocery store any time soon.

"These beers do exist and it's almost certain there are more of them now than there used to be. But they still occupy a very small niche," Christopher Shepherd of Beer Insights, told Thrillist via email. "'Still' or 'flat' may be something all these beers have in common, but I don't think that's the underlying driver here. It seems more of a consequence of the processes required to achieve the flavor profile or drinking experience that the brewers seek rather than the goal in and of itself."

Specifically, most of these beers contain high alcohol by volume, or ABV, contents. The End of History, for example is a 55% ABV beer -- higher than most spirits. But the lack of carbonation in many of these so-called "sipping" beers stems from how they're brewed, and not because the brewer wanted a beer without bubbles. A beer's carbonation comes naturally as a byproduct of fermentation, as the craft beer style guide explains, and there's a general correlation between ABV and carbonation.

"As you get higher in alcohol, you get less carbonation," Brewer's Association Craft Beer Program Director Julia Herz told Thrillist. "Of most beers in 140 beer styles we track, the majority are less than 6% alcohol. [The beers in Bloomberg's article] are experimental beers and not a common example."

Herz went on to point out that most of the beers mentioned were more like ways for brewers to flex their beer muscles. Or, better stated, their innovations in brewing, such as cask-aging and freeze-distilling. But there's a rub with all these beers: they're exorbitantly expensive for the producer and consumer. Utopias, the most widely available of these beers, costs $200 per bottle.

"I dispute the fact that it is a trend," Herz said, continuing that the headline gives the consumer the wrong impression. "The use of the word 'flat beer' in the title and 'flat beer trend' is misleading. That insinuates the beer should have been carbonated in the first place."

But, in fact, that's not the case; it's a byproduct of some other ultimate goal. In effect, the "flat" beers used as examples are for foodies and beer-lovers, but they're the kinds of brews you'd expect to find in a brewery's tasting room or in-house brew pub -- not at your corner store, and by no means on tap anywhere near you.

In the end, the "flat beer trend" falls... pretty still.

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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. His first beer was a decade-old Coor's Light at his grandparents' house. Things have improved since then. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.