R&D Beers: The Heart of Craft Beer

Staying true to its home brewing roots, R&D beers are really what craft beer is all about. And you should try them!

While IPAs and stouts may be the cornerstones of craft beer, the true heart and spirit of the industry lies in the R&D, experimental, specialty, and collaboration brews. These new and adventurous beers have taken us everywhere from “…but, how? And why?” all the way to “… this is the beer I never even knew I needed!” and every place in between.


R&D stands for Research and Development and that’s literally what these beers are for. This is where the experimenting and adding a new spin to an old recipe come to life, and the ideas for new flavor combinations that seem insane or complete opposites, have the chance to become a reality. Mostly made in small batches, each beer is one of a kind. The R&D programs are kind of like large scale versions of home brewing, driven by imagination, ingenuity, and passion. Recipes are tested, to see what works and what doesn’t, tweaked and perfected, and eventually (hopefully) available for customers to taste and give feedback on!


Drink Local– Yes, this again.

By now, we’re all well-versed in the ways we can support our local small businesses, and all the wonderful reasons we should. One of the best things about R&D beers is that we, local brewery goer’s, get to be involved in the R&D process; we get try new beers first and actually tend to have direct influence over the success of that particular beer. Think of it as a perk for having great taste in beer and supporting your community. Besides the obvious, this is what we get back for supporting local; an insider look at what they’re cooking up next, literally.

Oftentimes, R&D beers are ground zero for the “next big thing” in the industry. Once a trend starts to pick up steam, more and more beers in that particular style start popping up; the trick is to be ahead of that trend, or if you’re really good, to start it.  That’s where the research and development part comes in. Look at the Haze Craze of this year; by early summer, every brewery on the west coast was competing to have a new, better, best hazy IPA on their menu. However, months before that, these same breweries were already working on recipes and making small batches of unfiltered IPAs and gauging response in local tasting rooms. While industry trends are their own beast, there is something to be said for the consumer’s input during this R&D process.


Sharing is Caring!

We are BIG fans of collaborations! People helping people and businesses working with other businesses is great on so many levels. Brewery to brewery collaborations are pretty prominent and a vast majority of the time, result in some truly amazing beers. This year alone, there have been some great beers to come out of San Diego, like 11 Barrel IPA, the beer made in response to 10 Barrel opening a brewpub in the East Village. Collaborations aren’t necessarily just a local to local thing either; remember Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp? They brought together 12 other breweries to create brand new beers, not to mention an extremely high level of cooperation throughout the community; that’s some next-level ambition! Go Sierra Nevada.

There also are so many great industry crossovers happening too; from coffee roasters getting together with breweries to make porters and stouts (or Modern Times who does that all that on their own), to incredible chefs working with breweries to create perfect beers to pair with food, to Newtopia Cyder and Thunderhawk Alements joining forces to create some pretty cool hybrid brews. Most of the time, these collaborations are made on a small scale, just like other R&D’s. Sometimes, they’re just one-time-only types of beers, and while that makes them harder to come by, it also makes them really special and a hot commodity. Spoiler alert: they also rarely disappoint, so try them if you can!

Give it a shot!

While there’s nothing wrong with tried and true, we highly recommend trying any experimental or R&D beers you can, even if they aren’t your usual style. You’ll be up on the latest trends, and you never know, you may find a new favorite beer, or at the very least have a great story to tell about the crazy-flavored beer you tried. So try some new styles, or new flavors, if for no other reason than to help the research and development process of your local brewery… you know for science!

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