A Good Beer Blog

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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

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Jeff Alworth -

And I don't love hops.

I am always fascinated by individual tastes. What do you love in a beer?

Alan -

I was thinking about this after I posted this last night. Hops is the fourth thing that attracts me. If you look at this older review or this one, I seem to be seeing how hop frames this malt. In this one for Green Flash Imperial IPA, I obviously don't care for the hammering of hops but find the good in it. But it is a good tat I think illustrates that the hops, malt, yeast and water profile should add up to a fifth thing that are the resulting flavours in the one beer as opposed to the separate flavours of the ingredients.

Alan -

And... I wonder if having raw ingredients in beer stand out is like having the taste of flour stand out in a bechamel.

Pivní Filosof -

Well, that is the whole point of balance. The alchemy (in the true sense of The Art, not the caricature thereof) of beer.

Hops have been getting all the attention because they are easy. A hop bomb won't require that much skill from the brewer, nor too much patience from the drinker.

But as the review says, this book is more intended for brewers than drinkers (not to mention that is only a part of a whole set).

Pivní Filosof -

"hops, malt, yeast and water profile should add up to a fifth thing". Great bit, by the way. Though you are forgetting about the fifth ingredient, time (or so Stan proposed).

Stan Hieronymus -

Max - As the guy who wrote the book, I would say it is intended first for brewers - after all, Brewers Publications commissioned the book - but I hope there is much of interest there for consumers as well.

Be it an explanation of why less can be more when it comes to hop odor compounds (ultimately turned into aroma in our brains) to "meeting" hop farmers. The book is not about my love of hops, although I have a great appreciation for everything from Tettnang Tettnanger to Centennial, but of those involved with hops on a daily basis.

BTW, if hops were easy there wouldn't be so many god awful hop bombs.

Jeff Alworth -

The MBAA has this novel system of breaking beers into categories by dint of their most pronounced element: hop, malt, yeast, or "other" (like fruit and coffee--though let's let that one just pass for now). It's a pretty good system in my view. I notice that nearly all my favorite styles are collected in the hoppy and yeasty categories, and damned few in the malty. Sounds like you're not a hop-driven kind of guy. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Jeff Alworth -

Damn lack of quote marks. [Ed.: fixed.</em]

Gary Gillman -

I found the book technical to be sure but not all of it and many consumers I believe will be fascinated by the blend of scientific and popular beer and brewing-related information disclosed in this study.

The discussion of dry-hopping is the best I have ever read and I was amazed how many ways there are to dry hop - clearly at least as many as the brewers Stan interviewed (10). Ditto the discussion of wet-hop brewing.

The discussion of how Sam Adams processes its hops in Germany is very interesting, as is Jim Koch's evolution from being Noble-hop obsessed to one being open to look also in his own backyard.

While clearly not for everyone due to its technical side, this is a landmark contribution to beer and brewing studies IMO. And it is the first detailed discussion in print I know of which goes into the origins of one of the most famous hops in history despite its youthful lineage - the Cascade.

Gary

Alan -

Jeff: that understanding of "elements" describes ingredients. Again, not interested in bad bechemel. Not hop-driven. Hop aware but not obsessed.

ethan -

I actually detest the word "balanced," as applied to beer. I use it, but I hate it. Sometimes a wanton lack of balance is quite rewarding- ask any 4 year old, spinning around until they fall over.

Gary Gillman -

Stan makes the point in the book that balanced means something different to mass market vs. craft brewers. And this means really it is a relative thing.

To me, balance means (a Michael Jackson-derived datum as so many of my postulates) that the hop and malt should stand in relation to each other as intended by the brewer, that each brewer seeks finally a "balance" of these elements (and the yeast) which he offers to his trade for its judgment. It is another way of stating the relativity of the matter, given the plethora of beer styles and that each brewer will necessarily bring his own approach to it.

Gary

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ethan -

What Gary says makes sense to me; I suppose I was mostly addressing Alan's analogy. While a floury bechemel would not be good, I have enjoyed many a beer where the malt, yeast and water have yielded to a prefectly blended onslaught of hop aroma and flavor. So perhaps it's better to say there are bitter-bombs rather than hop-bombs. The term "hoppy" is ambiguous as to whether one is talking about IBUs or flavor/aroma.

Gary Gillman -

The term hoppy is also ambiguous whether APA is meant or just a bitter/aromatic taste in general. Many people mean they don't like APA when they say they don't like hoppy beers. However, perhaps they like a white vermouth on the rocks and could get, therefore, a classic English hoppy bitter or Pilsner Urquell, which taste nothing like an APA.

Still, the hopus Americanus seems increasingly to be ruling the beer waves... I was shocked in Stan's book to learn how little hop production there is in England today, less than (say) Slovenia's! The old English tastes will die out perhaps and even if they keep growing hops there, part of it will likely be American strains anyway.

You can still find in England and even here, e.g., Durham ESB on cask the other day at Bar Volo in Toronto, the classic English taste, but it is a withering style.

Meet the new boss, but he's not the same as the old boss.

Gary

Alan -

Yah, well I find that is too often code for lazy brewing. The best hop bombs are balanced by sweet malt and so are perfectly blended but there are many - perhaps a majority - that are just ill thought out. So, while we may pray in the direction of Jackson, we have to admit that was the brewer intended is actually a flop. Black IPAs, just for example, are quite prone to this.

ethan -

The artful blend of roasted bitterness and hops bitterness is indeed difficult... not to mention how to obtain sympathy between the aromatic notes of hops and roast/chocolate/coffee/toast. Otter Creek nailed it though, in my mind.

In a seriously bitter beer, sometimes you can't easily percieve the malt character, but it's still playing a critical role. In a bitter-bomb, not only has the malt disappeared, but also it's quiet supporting role; I describe such beers as 'hop teas,' and do not enjoy them. Insipid, watery, bitter and just no fun.

Alan -

Errr... aka bad. Why are we so reluctant to say that beers are just plain bad. Bad trend or badly thought out, the beer that is made as intended, does not give pleasure and does not add anything to the discussion is a failure. How many new beers actually do that and do that in a way that displays the brewers' mastery of his skills? Far fewer than we admit.

Far too often the hop is an excuse just as high alcohol can be. This is why I trust Stan's work and think this book is so important as it may well get us past the current approach to hopping and move on... or back... to a finer appreciation of what hops can provide rather than just making them scream at you from the glass.

Gary Gillman -

Oh I agree Alan, I said the brewer offers to the trade for judgment. We do not have to concur in his taste. Every brewer seeks a balance, is I think how St. Michael put it, but that starts, doesn't end, the debate!

Gary

ethan -

I'm comfortable using the term "bad," but then I know is a relative and personal adjective and I'm not interested in telling you what to think.

Plus, "insipid" is simply a closer descriptor :)

Alan -

No, bad is not relative. That is a problem with the beer discussion. Some beer - and a lot more than people will admit - just objectively sucks. People will say "but it sells" but if the purchasers were given knowledge and a better selection, they would not sell so well.

Gary Gillman -

I would say beer is "bad" in two senses, when it: i) has an objective fault, e.g. is or is on the way to being damp paper-oxidized, or uses malt that tastes stale or mouldy, or is (non-intentionally) sourish - thus a "good" beer can be "bad"; and ii) is bad for me personally. Thus, meaning #1 is objective, meaning #2 subjective or relative.

E.g., there is a classic APA taste I don't like, I can't define it easily, but many brands incarnate it. I literally can't finish the beer usually. I think it is a poor taste and people just (for whatever reason) adapt to it. That falls in category #2. How can I say a beer is bad that legions like, even lionize? PBR is bad for me, but I can't say others have no taste. They might say to me, and have many times, that a beer I like is smelly and tastes like chocolate cake, and "how can you drink that?". Are they wrong about my fave Impy stout and am I right about PBR? How can it be both?

Gary

Alan -

I would not use "bad" to mean not to my liking. I don't like Steam Whistle from Toronto that much but I know it is a well made beer.

Gary Gillman -

I agree viz. Steamwhistle, I don't get that taste. However, when trying different beers in Germany two years ago, many tasted like that. Can't figure it. Initially I thought it was a local hop taste (clearly Steamwhistle uses German hops) but now I'm not sure, maybe a sulfur yeast thing going on a la Creemore. Anyway, de gustibus non est...

Gary