A Good Beer Blog

-------

Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments

Comments are locked. No additional comments may be posted.

Craig -

I have plans to brew a Burton in late September or early October. You don't see those very often—or ever.

Zak -

Isn't it a cyclical thing, whereby every 10 years or wo you think that beer has finally become everything it can be, and then something comes along and makes you realise how wrong you were?

Bailey -

Do you mean that we've reached the end of flavours in beer which are (a) new but (b) not tastes which need acquiring?

It only takes some crazy new hop or yeast to emerge and we've got another citrusy IPA or banana-smelling wheat beer revolution on our hands.

Alan -

"It only takes some crazy new hop or yeast to emerge and we've got another citrusy IPA or banana-smelling wheat beer revolution on our hands."

Maybe it's just me but each crazy new hop at this point strikes me as a lot like a crazy new disco hit. If there was a new thing for Zak's next cycle, I would hope it is roasty maltinesses - but that was the one before hops. What taste is available but not explored? Gruits?

This is, by the way, why brewing isn't art. There is no end to art.

[Note: the Beer Nut senses it, too.]

Bailey -

I've got a new generation of hops in mind rather than a slight variation on "citrusy" but, yes, I take your point. The UK obsession with Citra came and went before we'd even managed to taste a beer that used them.

Stephen Beaumont -

Jaded alert! I have no interest in one-upping you, Mr. McL, but I'd guess I sample more beers per year than even you do and I am well familiar with the sense that it has all become a little too familiar. A while back, in fact, I hit my absolute wall with respect to bourbon barrel-aged beers and left several to languish in the beer fridge, until...

One of said bourbony beers was for a magazine review and thus could not be avoided. So I pulled it out and drank it. (My habit with such reviews is to drink-and-think first, making notes only on the second bottle a day or three later.) And there it was, that almost elusive something that pulled this particular beer away from the vanilla-and-smoke-imbued pack. It was exciting, thrilling even, and reminded me -- for the umpteenth time! -- that there still lurk exceptional flavour experiences to be discovered, no matter how many beers have been essayed in the past.

In short, it's not about the next "thing," but the next subtle and expertly effected twist on this or that. Jaipur IPA at the GBBF earlier this month was like that; so was New Glarus Uff-da Bock. Taste, for me, at least, never gets old.

Alan -

How can I be jaded when I align with your experience?!?

But... the moment and taste never dies. That is not quite what I meant though I do take your point that it has to be respected and even nurtured by watching out for it.

Jeff Alworth -

Psssh. I am reminded of the mathematician who hypothesized that music was nearing its terminal moment because the combinations of notes were all getting used up.

Even if we weren't entering a phase where brewers dose their beers with all manner of foods and spices, I still wouldn't buy the thesis. Some of the most revelatory beers I've had recently were understated little gems that got more out a grain or two and a hop variety or two. There are literally hundreds of flavor and aroma compounds in beer. If you're not tasting something new, don't blame the beer; that's user error.

Gary Gillman -

Alan, I would think the trick now is to find the really good ones of the range that exists. That can keep anyone busy for a lifetime. We all have our own choices. E.g. I feel Victory Prima Pils, or Galt Knife Lager on draft, or Urquell in the can, are far better than most blonde lagers I've had anywhere. I have similar choices amongst all the styles including commercial lines because I like some mass market beers - e.g. Tsingtao when very fresh - while disliking most. I try to find all these (in good condition)

To find the good ones, I rely on what bloggers say, what beer book and brewspaper authors write, what friends tell me - and finally my own judgement.

In one sense, while the current limits to the existing beer styles seem constraining, in another, they are problematic, since, given too the many brewers we now have, there are hundreds and probably thousands of beers to try. But only a very small number of really good (IMO) and I try to find those and keep up with them.

Gary

Gary Gillman -

I meant (sorry), only a small number of the beers brewed today are really good.

I read Jeff's comment after though and find much to agree with there. The next revelation is always around the corner.. But darn that Galt Knife Lager on draft is good!

Gary

Alan -

I am utterly unmoved by Jeff. First, because this idea of "revelatory" seems to have missed the point utterly. I don't recall mentioning not liking beer. I did indicate some concern about beer fanaticism - ie that which we all practice - facing an issue as relates to themes and stylistic movement.

But is that all there is? I have no doubt that I can find other flavour combinations and that rarely they may be startlingly yummy. As Gary said, we are a bit swamped and, I would add, maybe in a bit of a glut, too. What wall needs breaking down? What needs to be written that has yet to be stated? I am looking forward to some of these books on beer likely to be coming out in 2012 as I can't think of one this year that caught my attention. Maybe they will have something to add.

Gary Gillman -

I didn't read Jeff as putting revelation in beer in counterpoint to no interest in its flavour. I think he was saying that even something quite simple or apparently so can make you see what we all know and love in a new way.

Gary

Steve Lamond -

Does beer have to be about new revelations all the time? Can't you just drink beers you know you enjoy rather than constantly striving to find something new? Does beer have to constantly evolve?

Alan -

That is a very good question. In US craft circles, there is an obsession for paying an odd amount for what appear to me to be slight flavour tweeks or, as with that weird thing called Black IPA - aka black bitter - stuff that people later will admit was never their favorite. It is a variant of UK ticking. Which makes it.... niche... church hall foldy card table clubby.

I have gotten to the point that it is rare to have two of the same beer in sequence. It had been years since I bought six pint bottles of the same with the intention of sharing them over the course of an afternoon. It was very pleasant as I stopped thinking that much about the beer after the first.

So, I think through this post I am making my sacrifice to the gods of beer who are displeased with me - my way of making amends. Beware ye who take no notice.

Bailey -

Good point. It's probably healthy every now and then to go somewhere and drink four pints of a beer you like, in a row, and just spend some quality time with it.

Jeff Alworth -

I did mean what Gary guessed I meant. I'd add a bit more. I think that, with only hops, malt, and yeast we haven't yet explored all the flavors in beer. The math is astounding on chemical compounds those three ingredients produce. Add to that all the other ingredients you might toss into a beer and the list grows by orders of magnitude.

Any movement yet?

Alan -

Well, let's work the math. You have to have those multitude of compounds aligned in a matter that tastes good - 90% of combinations would probably suck. Then, you have to align them in largely traditional manners of brewing as the technology would be expensive otherwise plus there would be rejection by buyers. Let's say that is another 9% chucked as, for lack of a better phrase, bizarre experimentation.

So you are left with 1% of all possibilities being tasty and within the realm of what people recognize as beer. And we have had 4,000 - 30,000 years of ologopolist brewing trade where brewers have sought to make their beer stand apart. Which means that the difference between you and me looks, in math, like:

AP ≅ JP ≈ 1%

Stephen Beaumont -

I think your math is erroneous, Mr. McL. More like:

Varieties of hops (hundreds once you take into consideration regional variations) x types of malted grains (also hundreds, no doubt) x variations in water (multiple; I'll let someone more expert than I hazard a guess) x yeasts (hundreds? thousands?) x extraneous factors (length and vigorousness of boil, temperature of fermentation, length of conditioning, etc., etc.) = Potential number of flavours to be found/discovered in Reinheitsgebot beer.

Add in other ingredients and serving temperatures and individual tastes and even serving format and that number multiplies out even further. Plus, there are new hops being developed all the time, nelson sauvin being a favourite at the moment and likely one of the factors (along with other intensely aromatic Kiwi grown hops) involved in the fast development of the New Zealand pilsner style. (And watch South America, once they start getting new hop varieties cultivated!)

I know Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine who are constantly being surprised by new bottles, and they have only grapes and terroir and technique! Beer has so much more potential for flavour, and I would suggest that we've barely scratched the surface.

DanSmallbeer -

I drink a fair amount of new stuff, but I find myself frequently drinking the same sequence of beers of an evening: a Tree Hophead IPA followed by a Unibroue Fin Du Monde (341ml each). Just the right amount and reliably delicious. Better for writing purposes than something new. Half the time I don't even desire the distraction of new flavours.

Alan -

Good work, Mr. B.

I look forward to your 1 lb of malt, 500 pounds of hop, 23 lbs of table salt beer. It will be called "90% Gak" and it is all yours. There are millions of variants of similarly undrinkable combinations within your math.

Bailey -

Now Brew Dog's 90% Gak -- *that's* an extreme beer. Comes in a bottle shaped like a penis; has a picture of a turd on the label; costs £2000.

Alan -

Brilliant! I think you've just proven my point.

Gary Gillman -

I come back to the idea of finding the best beers, even in the range that will be considered acceptable of all the perms and combs. Drinking something acceptable is just swallowing; drinking something great is a gastronomic experience, partaking of the artistic and contemplative dimensions of life. I want those, not another "typical' APA, or stout tasting of burnt raw barley.

Gary

Stephen Beaumont -

Ah, but you're a sarcastic bastard, Mr. McL. Guess that's what I like about you.

Imagine you expecting me to come to the defense of so-called "extreme" beers! It is to laugh!! True enough that there may be an almost infinite number of crap combinations within my calculations, but i would suggest there might also be the same number off grand and glorious ones, subtle tweaks and nuances that take a beer from being merely good and elevate it to great.

I don't encounter those every day or week or even month sometimes, but they do exist. And that they do exist is why I keep doing what I do, no matter what the sarcastic bastards amongst us might say.

Alan -

...snhehe-sn-hehehe...

[/bevis and butthead]

Jeff Alworth -

Alan, at 48, are you certain that if you did encounter a new flavor your old, worn tongue could perceive it?

Alan -

Oh, Jeff. You are getting boooring. Are you paid by the Brewers Association to do this sort of thing? There has to be some corrupt reason you are being so personal about this. Have you no other hobbies? No friends to call to while away the hours? Perhaps a pet!

Jeff Alworth -

Alan, I though we were friends! I'll go away now.

Alan -

Now you've upset me.

Peter Bailey -

Cyclical malaise, that's all. Sometimes I tire of music, another teenage band versing and chorusing, but then someone will come along with three chords and the truth and its all okay again. Fiction, reading, novels - my interest waxes and wanes but always returns. I agree with some of the posters. The three minute power pop song, the novel with a story and interesting characters, the crisp hoppy/malty pale ale - all classic platonic forms that I know I'll return to even if I stray. I know the new Fountains of Wayne song is the same as all the previous FOW songs, but it's okay, it sounds damned good.

Tim -

Combinations within styles. Think of the black IPA revolution. What if someone made some combination between a trippel and a doppelbock?

Or a pilsener and helles lager?

Gary Gillman -

Alan, one other thing to note is that developments in American hop breeding proceed apace. The Cascade hop only emerged in 1972, an aroma hop intended originally for large brewers to supplement or replace imported European fine hops such as Hallertau MF. In subsequent decades though, the large brewers moved over largely to bittering hops - those whose main sell is their high alpha acid content.

The emerging craft brewers (from the mid-70's on) found the new aroma varieties, with their grapefruit and other novel flavours, to their liking. These were adopted for what became American Pale Ale and other craft beer staples of our time. But the work of plant breeding proceeds apace, and there is every expectation that new hop flavours will emerge in the next few years just as they have since Cascade was issued. They will put their stamp on the beers and therefore there is little likelihood the existing palette of flavours will remain static.

Gary

Alan -

Frankly, I find the race for new hops a cacophony. An coherent mess of difference without distinction. But you are catching me on a bad day. After an evening of disappointing craft beer, I just want a milk shake... or a Manhattan.

Gary Gillman -

A Manhattan - I know how to make those. :)

No Alan, really it's the stuff of the whole craft beer revolution, the past and the future, I'll PM some source materials on this.

Gary

Alan -

Because I don't think I believe in a "craft beer revolution" and know I don't believe in a "beer community" anymore than rock star brewers, I am not sure how this fits. Remember how the craft beer explosion was driven by malty brown beers and stouts?

BTW, did I know you were a fellow traveler professionally?

Gary Gillman -

We discussed the occupational connection a while back, yes. :)

I do feel though there is a division between pre-circa 1980 and what has occurred since. For me what has occurred since is the craft beer revolution. But I think it is partly a question of age. I'm 61, so I see it from a perspective that takes in how it all was before craft beer started, before Cascade hops, etc.

Gary

Alan -

So do I. I just remember that hops came along as a major player about 2/3s along.

Steve Gates -

Alan, What do you mean you don't believe in the craft beer revolution?? Don't you remember when you could only purchase Labatts, Carling/O'Keefe, Molsons or Formosa Springs products? I can still hear my father's lamentable whine. The re-introduction of regional beers into Ontario is the best thing that ever happened to the beer community, a community,BTW that I thought you held a lofty position within, a position with real sway and influence. Now you say that you don't believe in that community either. Perhaps you have been beer blogging too long and you have lost your way intirely. Have you had your summer vacation yet?? Pity this!

Alan -

"Revolutions" don't take 30 slow years, that's all.

I still don't believe in beer community. Not one person has shown up to help me move the furniture. Pity the person who confuses people who sell you stuff for their best friends.

Stan Hieronymus -

Alan - You need to give that last thought a thread of its own. (Before I steal it - perhaps in a modified form.)

The Beer Nut -

"Revolutions" don't take 30 slow years, that's all.
Sure they do.

I was on the rooftop terrace of the Bacardi building in Havana and the attendant was pointing out some notable other buildings on the city skyline.
"That one was built in about 1980" he said
"So... about 20 years after the revolution?"
"No, the 20th year of the revolution."

Hasta la revolución siempre!

Alan -

BN: remind me to seek my opinion on political theory analogies to consumer market forces within a pleasure trade from folk other than brainwashed lap dogs of a Marxist totalitarian state raised on leaders' little books and whatever food and drink is given them by their betters whose record of beer production is akin to bees whose hive only produces shit... did I say that out loud? ;-) [Note: use of smiley face means you can't strongly disagree with me.]

Stan: you start it and, in response, I will both bolster the point and yet confuse it with other tangential baggage that makes it lose its way.

The Beer Nut -

I thought the medium-dark lager from Taberna de la Muralla was really rather good. I'd happily have it on the record of beer production of my country.

Alan -

Interesting. Peoples collective or small cash based program towards the future without the Castros?

The Beer Nut -

Neither. 50-50 ownership between the state and a foreign (Austrian) company. A lot of Cuban businesses are set up that way, from what I saw.

Jeff Alworth -

This post is STILL alive? Good lord.

Stan, you should take up the issue, but expect only dyspepsia from Alan. I feel that we, his extremely weak digital community, need to run an intervention where we fly up to Nunavut or wherever it is he lives and pour extremely good, NEW beer down his throat until he admits it's possible for beer to still surprise. Or, failing that, until he gets drunk and merry.

I'd be willing to do it. Someone just tell me where to get the sled team.

Steve Gates -

Alan, If the criterion required for you to feel like a member of this beer community is for me or some other real beer lover to come over to your place and help you move them give me your address, I've got a F150 and I live in Kingston, I could be there in 20 minutes. Seriously dude, you have to lighten up a bit with some of your stands, life is good and its better with a beer in your hand.... it's as simple as that.

Alan -

I really am not as strident as people take me. I really just mean that, say compared locally to CFB or RMC or Queen's, beer in itself lacks that quality of making community... though I am fine with scene, friendship binder, social lubricant and all those other concepts.

And we should meet.

Steve Gates -

Alan, That Kingston and area beer book I wrote will soon be in book stores in Ktown, I have the proof copy in my hand now. I invite you to give it a read and maybe you could comment on it within the confines of this space. I'll let you know when its available in stores. Cheers, Steve.

Alan -

I want an interview... in a tavern...