August 4, 2010

Stylez set to ridiculous

This is not brewing-related, but it is beer-related. I'm just going to ramble for a few paragraphs while I sort out notes on a new project I'm working on.

I can appreciate diversity of beer styles and the diversity of preferences (as it turns out diversity is not an old wooden ship) and that some people really enjoy beers I don't like. I get that some people like beer so high in IBUs you could mummify people in it and they would be preserved for thousands of years. I get that people like imperial beers meant to be drank slowly. I also get that people hate beers I love.

That's a good thing. We should all enjoy the things in life we find pleasurable.

However, I get sort of irritated at times by the turn everything imperial-let's make everything as high alcohol, high IBU as possible attitude. Again, I don't mind that some people enjoy an imperial pilsner. I do take issue with the attitude that if you just make something imperial it's automatically a better beer.

It's not.

It's a different beer. Yes, it takes longer to age, and yes it takes more ingredients. Ok? So what? The imperial attitude is the next generation of the just-add-hops/pale ale attitude that took off in the 90s. Then it was, "oh you have a brown beer? Check out this same brown beer, with more HOPS." Now it's, "oh you have a hoppy American brown? Check out that American brown, with more HOPS and more GRAIN! It's imperial, bitches!"

The problem with that attitude is not just that it's snobby or that it necessarily requires oneupsmanship among brewers, but once brewers have made 35% ABV 150 IBU Imperial Eisbocks, where else can you go, but find a new style to race to the top? It will only be a matter of time before Belgians -- which are very trendy -- are cannabalized to create Imperial Tripels. Ridiculous combinations of imperial trends and Belgian trends tied together to make something fans of either style can't enjoy. Trying to pair snobby with trendy never works... In the meantime, there are all sorts of imperial wheats (ready for an imperial hefeweizen?) imperial meads and all other abberations that can come.

You can already see that sours are becoming the new snobby beer style. (While I am happy to see a growth in the sour beer niche, I fear for its future.) It's harder to get right (in a sense) and takes longer to produce. It's perfect groundwork for a beer snob to take snobbery to a new level. Like the imperial style, you can make anything sour. And eventually, all beer styles will be made as sours. Then, once we've made everything sour, the two can come together. IMPERIAL SOUR! High alcohol potential fermented, then soured, then aged, then dryhopped to get max IBUs. You can even blend old Imperial sours with young imperials or young imperial sours so you can take your snobbery to a new level with blending.

The alternative to trying to race to the most X beer is just to make beers that are quality products, rather than predictable attempts to be more niche than the next.


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