Is modern ‘craft beer’ really a mess of silly, fruit-flavoured, over-hopped, novelty beers bought at inflated prices by mugs?
That (as we read his Tweets) is how venerable beer blogger Alan ‘A Good Beer Blog’ McLeod sees it, and he’s certainly not alone. It’s certainly true that when those outside ‘the bubble’ seek to satirise beer geeks, these are exactly the kinds of beers they pick on:
Undrinkable Apricot Monstrosity: Gotta love those lazy summer afternoons. Just head out to the porch, kick your feet up, and slog your way through an Undrinkable Apricot Monstrosity, courtesy of Lagunitas Brewing Co.
In what sounds like a plea for classical, conservative ‘good taste’, McLeod and others seem to be suggesting that the best beers are expressions of grain-hops-yeast-water, in balance with each other, with an alcohol content somewhere around the natural settling point of 5% ABV.
Now, we love beers like that (and occasionally get told off for it by extremophiles…) but we don’t believe they’re threatened, or even, for that matter, starved of attention.
In the UK at least, we see a lot of people enjoying bigger, stranger beers, while also raving about straightforward, decent lagers and bitters. On the whole, the same ‘crafterati’ that queues up to buy a limited edition IPA also seems to be quite vocal about enjoying cask ale from Fuller’s, or straightforward Munich-style Helles by Camden, in their local boozer.
Writing a post about why brown bitter and/or standard lagers are actually awesome is practically a beer blogging rite of passage.
Beer with fruit in, or with lots of hops, isn’t inherently ‘silly’ — what matters is how successfully or thoughtfully it is done. Badger’s peach-flavoured Golden Glory might be a bit vulgar; Brew By Numbers cucumber and juniper saison (sorry to go on) isn’t. People are excited by it because it works — not because of hype.
A healthy market, we think, offers:
- a broad choice of good quality ‘normal’ beers
- some cheap-but-drinkable beers for those on a budget; and
- on the fringes, some weird stuff for special occasions and novelty-seekers.
(Which sort of feels like where we’re getting to now, doesn’t it…?)
Those three categories aren’t mutually exclusive, and trying to argue any of them out of existence seems, we think, rather like trying to stop other people enjoying themselves.