Craft Beer has taken a turn for the worst.
The beers that inspired this current 2019 run up of beer fanaticism were the world-class versions of traditional beer styles.
The Pilsener. The ESB. The Belgian Triple. The Russian Imperial Stout. The Hefeweizen. The Saison. The India Pale Ale. For the big boys - - the Barleywine.
When most of us that own breweries today got excited about beer it was because of the worldwide, national and local versions of these beers. We’d taste them, savor them and discuss them. You could comfortably drink a 6-pack of them and so we’d share with other like-minded people and create memories and big plans. We were inspired by the brewer’s ability to combine flavor and balance. We were inspired by the staying power of these historical styles and, in some cases, the historical breweries that were still crafting them. We were inspired because the beer was good. It was crafted with passion and with an understanding of brewing science.
Never once do I remember noticing a lingering sweetness. Even heavily-hopped beers were somehow balanced. Bottles didn’t explode. And at the end of the day, it tasted like beer. Really good beer in most cases. I don't recall drinking anything that tasted like a dessert menu item at Applebee's back then.
And then there are the popular beers of today. People are literally waiting in line to purchase a stout that tastes like brownies or S’mores or any other dessert the ‘brewer’ can think of. What was once a beautiful expression of roast and smooth chocolate notes has been bastardized into a glassful of diabetes.
There was once a style of beer that was bitter on the palate and balanced by alcohol and a hint of malt. That style, in my opinion, was initially made better by the West Coast boys that dropped the malt and relied heavily on dry-hopping. Then the East Coast hazy versions brought the IBUs back to 40-45 and relied heavily on dry-hopping and a grain bill that added a rich mouthfeel, making a unique and fun to drink version of the IPA. Even that IPA variant has now been taken up by substandard brewers that have brewed bitter versions and over-dry-hopped them to create a harsh, burning quality. Any sensible beer fan wouldn’t drink these beers because they literally aren’t fun to drink. They don’t dance on the palate, they stomp around like elephants. But hype and circumstance have created a group of fanboys (fanpeople) that represent a demand that many young brewers find hard to resist supplying.
Let's not neglect the hazy milkshake creamsicle IPA that blends the bad concepts of both of these styles into one gloopy glass of disappointment. Part hazy IPA brewed with fruit juice and tropical hops. Then added lactose sugar for body and to balance the hops with some vanilla bean and you’re left with a concept that only warily represents beer. The worst part is that they literally sell like crazy. They tie up the interwebs and create an excitement that’s enticing to both brewers and drinkers.
To be fair, there does exist a few great examples of these beers. When a great brewer gets ahold of any style he or she can craft a beautifully balanced expression. I’m not talking about those rare unicorn brewers whose mash paddles are magic wands. The majority of these beers are thrown together by brewers without the chops-they are reaching beyond their ability. Trying to grab their 15 minutes without doing their homework. See the amount of residual sugar in a beer is part of the recipe, part of the craft. It’s meant to either lay heavy or light on the palate. To balance, highlight or subdue other flavors in the beer. When you first see a Jackson Pollock, you see a mess. But as you really absorb the painting, you see nuance, style and thoughtfulness. The exact opposite happens as you dive into a sloppily made beer.
So I decided to make fun of this style and make a beer in its distinct dishonor. We’d all have a laugh and toast to the sinking ship of awesome that helped fuel today’s craft beer boom.
So I started with a spent fruit beer we make called Blondine de Nefle. It’s a mixed culture sour wheat beer fermented on the spent skins and seeds of our loquat sour saison. The beer is fruity and bold with a nutty finish from the thousands of seeds the loquats left us. I then refermented with a few pounds of lactose sugar, which fermented to dryness but left us some mouthfeel and a smooth character. During that fermentation I added a small amount of hops and some whole Madagascar vanilla beans.
So now I have a real problem: The beer I made to make fun of the beers they make actually turned out to taste quite amazing. It is smooth and fun to drink. It’s somehow balanced and full of flavors reminiscent of childhood summers at the lake. But I feel like a jackass for making it, like all my artistic integrity is tied to that sinking ship and I’ve quite officially sold out. My only saving grace is that it’s a mixed culture beer and its very dry and a bit acidic. Also this style hasn’t been made with a thoughtfully-produced fruited sour before (at least that I could find) so it fits with my Drink Outside The Lines philosophy. At least those are the things I keep telling myself.
Two things I’m doing to make things better:
- I’m only brewing it this one time (so don’t ask)
- I’m naming the beer Tastee Bullshit because that’s the best description of what it is.
Three things I’m doing to make things worse:
- We’re serving the beer with whipped cream in the glass (yes, I know)
- We’re not packaging the beer so you have to come to the brewery and wait in line to get a taste.
- Since there’s only one keg I’m limiting supply, thereby increasing demand. (sorry, that one wasn’t really on purpose)
So this Saturday, July 13 at 11am I’ll be tapping some Tastee Bullshit for you to put in your face. There is only one 15 gallon keg available on draft for $7 a snifter pour and in 32oz growler fills for $20 and 64oz growler fills for $33. If you refuse to purchase any of this beer because you think like I think, I get it. I really do. If releasing this beer reminds you to take your own stand against the bullshit the mediocre brewers are pushing out in 2019BreweryAmerica, then we all win. But maybe by using the internet and social media to draw attention to this growing problem we can work together to convince these Trend Chasing brewers to try and actually make good beer. And maybe that is one piece of the puzzle that saves the beer industry from collapsing upon itself. I don't know, but I promise you this: the beer is actually fun to drink.
Pucker to the people,