Call me an old git (I’m imagining at this point many readers are doing just that…) and I think I’ve been an old git pretty much since birth but I do like my beer to taste of beer. Hops, brewers liquor, malted barley and yeast = beer. It’s a simple idea that has worked for thousands of years. Why then do modern brewers seem to feel the need to put other ingredients into beer?
A friend of mine (also an old git!) has a theory that you should avoid champion beers- the idea being that if anyone has brewed a champion beer, they’ve tried to do something different with it to make it stand out and has therefore buggered about with it and put something daft in it. It’s not a perfect theory, but I do think it has some truth in it. I’ve come across some champion beers that I could describe as interesting and very few that are examples of a best bitter done very well.
I’m enjoying the craft beer revolution and it has led to some great beers but it does have some interesting trends. I recently attended Tiny Rebel Brewfest in Cardiff, which is a fantastic event with craft breweries, most of which are local but with Hawkshead from the Lake District and Four Pure from Bermondsey amongst the others. What I’ve found is that there is a distinct lack of session ales or as one might say “normal” beer. I’ve found that most craft beer tends to fall into three categories- American IPA’s, dark/mild/stout/porter and bizarre creations. I like an American IPA and other than some rather high ABV’s, those are some great beers. There are then a variety of dark beers- I’ve grouped some similar styles together and some of those are excellent but I tried a stout recently that had chilli in it. It’s fair to say that I preferred the version the same brewery did without the chilli. I like a nice dark beer but I do find that at a craft beer festival or brewery I end up drinking more dark beer and more IPA than I normally would because the other options tend to be…
Bizarre creations. I’ve not really defined it but a combination of fruit and others substances in beers and absurdly high ABV’s are the things I’m talking about. I have come across fruit beers that I quite like- I do like a Bacchus and I’ve come across some beers with ginger in them that work. I think there is a place in the world for a half of something interesting and strong at the end of the evening- Crafty Devil do a very nice coffee infused stout, Safe as Milk and a lethal version, Not so Safe as Milk that’s over 7%, that is very nice to end an evening.
What I find strange though is exactly how many interesting creations there are and how few session beers there are out there. My personal beer preference is for a red ale with a malty flavour which tends to be a staple of traditional breweries but an endangered species amongst craft breweries- they do exist- Meantime do the very pleasant Yakima Red- but they are very rare. I’m happy to see new creations but I would like the world to also keep beer that tastes of beer and is somewhere in the 4% range that I can drink in a pint glass!!