Standing in line for multiple hours. Incessantly checking Beer Advocate and Untappd for updates on the latest whales. Scanning Twitter and Instagram to no end for surprise releases. These are routines many hardcore craft beer fans — including myself — are guilty of when it comes to seeking out our next conquests.
Some beers make people do ungodly things, beers like: Double IPAs, Double Dry-Hopped IPAs, Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts, Porters with bacon and syrup flavors, English Style Barleywines and oh so many styles of sour beers. Because of our obsessions, certain beer releases can become massively hyped. Often times, that hype can be set off when a trusted app or social media user gives a beer high ratings or when a trusted beer trader posts her latest pickup. Other times, a beer can get hyped simply as a result of who brewed it, like when a limited distribution brewery puts out a brand new release or a once-a-year beer.
When a beer has its own holiday, you might figure it’s suppose to be the greatest beer ever. Beer nerds from Petaluma to Poughkeepsie have had Hunahpu, Dark Lord, and Pliny The Younger all marked on their calendars at some point. The faithful buy tickets months in advance and fly hundreds to thousands of miles just to drink beer. Observing that kind of fandom revolving around a beer has got to make one think: How’s a beer supposed to live up to the hype?
The number of breweries in the U.S. is fast approaching 6,000, and breweries on both sides of the Mississippi, to the North and South off the MDL are cranking out hit after hit after life affirming hit. Being a popular brewery in that kind of competitive environment is surely putting pressure on the producers of America’s cult malt classics. The lines, the ratings, the black market domination for one of a brewery’s beers has got to set the bar pretty high in the scheme of things.
So, what happens if a beer doesn’t live up to the hype? Does that mean it’s a bad beer? If you check Untappd as often as me, you’ll see people pissed off because batch #4 wasn’t better than batch #1. Expectations for some aren’t being met, but who is setting those expectations? I’m no brewer, but damn — consistency is hard, and a beer release is likely to vary slightly from one year to the next. To me, craft beer is suppose to be fun, but too many times I’m seeing so-called fans getting upset over a luxury and just being poor sports about it all.
This brings me to Toppling Goliath’s Mornin’ Delight. Toppling Goliath is located in Decorah, Iowa and lays claim to some of the best IPAs and Stouts in the world. I recently received a bottle of Mornin’ Delight, the 12 percent Imperial Stout with coffee and maple syrup. Released this past August in 4-packs with glassware, demand for the beer was certifiably crazy. Before anybody could open a bottle of the new batch, online traders already had it on the block.
The hype for this beer came about because past batches had gotten fans exceptionally worked up. It was expected that this year’s release would have drinkers excited for the 4th time. Then, to my surprise, I observed one person after another on the Internet completely crap on the beer. Instead of trading for a bottle, I was gifted one — because I have really good friends. And I was more than excited to taste this one, because it was a bucket list beer for me. As I prepared the fine liquid, I thought to myself: I hope this beer lives up to my expectations.
After pouring Mornin’ Delight batch 4, I could smell the maple syrup without even putting my nose close to the glass. The scent was amazing, similar to how the pancakes smell at a classic diner or mom and pop bakery. Caramel and coffee caught my nose as well. The mouthfeel was chewy and decadent. The taste was like the best caramel or maple apple I’d ever had. I wasn’t let down one bit.
For others, it seems the hype that surrounded the beer dampened their experiences, as it is most definitely a double-edged sword. As consumers, we can appreciate the conversation starter and awareness that comes about, and a brewer can value the chatter as a marketing tool. But isn’t a great beer a great beer, regardless? And can’t hype do more bad than good sometimes, for everyone who cares about the craft beer community? I try not to get caught up, but I have fallen victim to the phenomenon on more than one occasion. I’ve been a little butt hurt over a beer I saw being raved about so much tasting like something I could regularly buy at my local beer store. But that’s not a bad thing, is it? Maybe, it’s not just not worth the hype.