With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.” We’ve even seen some novelty beers in our top-sellers. But beer traditionalists sometimes frown on these new and bizarre concoctions. And I can’t help but wonder if Martyn Cornell will participate, sharing bizarre but notable historic brews.
Which begs the question whether we are discussing weirdness or novelty. In 1988, the introduction of a certain Norwegian lager to the Nova Scotian marketplace was novel as it set itself apart from all other regional macro lagers through that little bit of real pale maltiness that I have since become very familiar with. See, that is the thing with novel. It is novel to me. Hard to say that something is novel to all of beerdom - especially as most people even beer nerds are still exploring possibilities as a matter of practice. For example, when I had Jordan St. John's excellent "hint to Beau's" called Staghorn, a pale ale of some sort with a unique touch of sumac, I knew that while it was incredibly tasty I also knew it was part of a theme, a pattern of recent craft brewing. Making things different. In one former home town, anything that was odd and a bit objected to was received with the semi-glotteral comment "that's diff'urnt" which was, frankly, a sign of somewhat shallow consideration. With good beer, however, being different has sorta become the norm.
So, what is novel when it comes to good beer? Jeff thinks wet hopping qualifies. I'd agree except it is just a variation on late hopping, an age old technique. Stan's recent post on a
wet fresh hop festival may bolster that argument so I am not against the idea. It's just that it's no more novel than the advent of cream ale... or the introduction of kegging for that matter. It is a part of the continuum of advancement. It also denies the association of novel with weird as set out in the question. Weird? Weird for me is beer that requires Rolaids to get through without self-induced pain. Weird for me is Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru by Cantillon. Yet it is not really novel. But, really, isn't all of Belgium a bit weird and a bit not novel, too?
Think about it. Maybe weird these days is the well made but quiet beer that doesn't scream out with the neediness of the brewery. Maybe not adding testicles or whatever else is getting added is what novel now tastes like.