Thursday, December 5, 2013

Time for a rant

I've got to take a minute here to rant a little.  This is the biggest problem with the "craft beer" movement today.  Not the opening of a nanobrewery or two.  Not the ditching of the "Flagship Beer" business model, nor of embracing diversity.

What's got me peeved is this:  Look at the list of beers they're making.
  • An Imperial Stout aged on chestnut;
  • A Double IPA aged on vodka-infused ash spirals;
  • An English Barleywine that comes in gin-barrel and bourbon-barrel varieties;
  • A wormwood-and-basil Saison;
  • A sour wheat ale infused with coriander, salt, and lavender;
  • A Scotch ale with figs and spices;
  • A Belgian Strong with peaches.
These are all big beers (possible exceptions being the Saison and the Wheat), and they're all "zipped up" with a bunch of other flavorings (chestnut? Coriander, salt, and lavender? Wormwood and basil?).

Now, don't get me wrong.  There's nothing at all wrong with making something out-of-the-ordinary--heck, I've done it a time or two, with mixed results.  I have no problem with a brewery wanting to make something like this part of their regular lineup (I'm looking at you, Dogfish Head...).  Where I draw the line, though, is making this the only thing in your lineup.  Nowhere here is there something "sessionable;" even if the alcohol punch was low enough to allow it, there's too many other flavors going on.

What I'd like to see is a whole raft of brewers getting the basics down first.  Make a couple of styles repeatedly, until you do them well.  You've really got to know your ingredients, and your equipment.  Once you have some of that, start ratcheting up the difficulty, and make more difficult styles.  Now and again, for fun, do something frivolous or over-the-top, but try to have a firm handle on the base styles first--it's amazing the amount of complexity that can be found in even the simplest beers.  (SMaSH brews are still fascinating to me...  Once things in my "brewing life" are much less up-in-the-air, I'm going to set back in to the SMaSH brews to really get a firm grasp on my homemade ingredients.)

What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that in the scheme of things, I'd rather be finessed by the subtleties of a well-made Bohemian Pils than hit over the head by another Double Imperial Strong Ale With A Handful Of Overpowering Spices.  Call me crazy...

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