“Is craft beer burning out?” asks the very perceptive Burnt Out Beer Guy, also known as Darren Packman, in an article on his self-named blog. Beer craft is getting left behind as brewers race to put out new variations of the same thing every couple weeks to keep up with the demand for the new, instead of refining what they have to make it even better.
He blames the upcoming flame-out on the demand for something new every week by the “App-drinking” crowd and the brewers who “because of their relentless drive to recreate beer…have inadvertently spawned a consumer culture where beer doesn’t necessarily need to be great anymore”.
Tough, harsh words in the era of plenty but a nice antidote to “IPAs so cloudy they look like radioactive pond water, double mocha-wocha choco-vanilla fudgy wudgy pastry stouts, DDH fruit smoothies (that’s Double Dry Hopped for the uninitiated) and salty goses that taste like gym instructor sweat”.
He calls out the need for a brewery to have multiple versions of every style, “many of which taste pretty much the same because they really are the same. Just add another kilo or two of dry hops and you get two beers from one. There’s simply no time left over these days to refine. It’s corner-cutting, sloppy but inevitable as brewers come under increasing pressure to conjure up something different every week”.
Once you have finished reading Packman’s take on the state of the craft, take a look at Vinepair’s article by Tara Nurin who backs up his argument by noting that craft drinkers have started sneaking in some Miller Lites and Bud Light beers.
Here in Belgium that would be the equivalent of buying a case of Maes or Jupiler, which I admit I occasionally do to clear the palate of all those craft beer! Sometimes I just want something simple and clean and refreshing.
Blogger Tierney Pomone calls such people “recovering beer snobs”. Nurin notes “recovered beer snobs, also known as ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’, are generally Gen Xers who’ve spent years swirling and sniffing taster-sized samples, waiting in line for Heady Topper, and posting pictures of their beer hauls. They’ve gone through a lupulin threshold shift that carried them from IPAs to 100-IBU imperial IPAs, and then on to sours because their palates had basically grown numb to anything that didn’t blow it to pieces”.
Palate fatigue is a real trend says Nurin, with breweries now moving to making lighter styles. Sales figures in the US indicate that pilsners, blonde ales and wheat beers are gaining market share, though IPA remains overwhelmingly dominant.
I think the import of both articles is: stop the race to record on Untappd and go back to enjoying beer as a simple pleasure. Don’t stop the craft, but allow it to blossom. Take time to enjoy a sip, rather than get through the beer list. Hmm. What a beer idiot thing to do!