It has gone from being flavored with whatever fermentables came to hand to a very strict ingredient list and back. These are broad strokes but the larger point is one (OK, I) begins to worry at the state of the less sexy beers. The English-style porters, the humble pale ales and the single IPAs. Part of my point, in fact, is that I have to qualify the number of IPAs.
Triple IPAs and heavily-fruited IPAs aren’t just on the rise, they’re here. Five years ago it was a pleasure to see a craft beer that wasn’t Samuel Adams on tap. Two years ago the expectation was that out of 10 taps, two or three at the least would be local. That was kind of the heyday for me and established a kind of standard where I expected to be able to drink something that was made within 100 miles of the place I was drinking it. It was really easy to do.
The rise of fruit beers, though, is beginning to bother me. It isn’t a palate thing, Dogfish Flesh and Blood, for example, is a fine beer that is going to kill it all summer. Spring and summer fruit beers will be followed in the fall by massive smoky stouts and bruising barley wines. I suppose some people will even throw a couple of pumpkin beers on the pile for good measure.
Two things happened to me recently that got me thinking about the rush to pallet destruction in seasonal beers. The first was when I was out on a story and a bar manager bragged that they had Mad Elf on tap, which is borderline criminal in a three-tiered kind of way. The other was seeing pumpkin beers in several different stores. More than a few breweries bet too big on pumpkin this last season, but that’s a trend story for August.
The trend story for now is that, with bars that still have winter seasonals to move, liquor stores apparently starting a bottle aging program for pumpkin beers, and what can only be described as a feverish demand for fruited and triple (and triple fruited) IPAs, sours and combinations there of — I had an “imperial gose” the other day — one worries about space and tolerance for beer flavored beers.
I thought it was just me at first, but I mentioned it to some homebrewing friends of mine and they were on board. I guess what I’m saying is that, if you are the type of person to get this far in a beer trend story, people probably know you like craft beer a lot. Maybe give the occasional shout out to beer flavored beers, ask at the smaller liquor stores whether they have any pale ales or pilsners, remind yourself of the pure pleasure of a solid beer that supports, rather than subsumes a meal.
I’m not saying don’t buy the imperial goses of the world (someone’s gotta drink ’em and it ain’t gonna be me), but drinking is voting for beer culture and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the everydayness of a solid beer flavored beer.
That said, drink what you like and be happy.