Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

16 January, 2014

"They're just trying to kill you with hops"

Like my current pet peeve is—and here we're definitely talking about First-World problems—over-hopping of craft beer. Hops are a very aromatic, bitter compound and I suspect that they're being used by incompetent brewers to cover up defects in the taste of their produce. I've been trying this experiment lately: If you go into a microbrewery type of place and ask them for their "least-hopped" beer, they either can't even answer the question or they seem pretty seriously taken aback. They're just trying to kill you with hops.
Neal Stephenson

The guy writes great books AND is knowledgeable about beer.

While I continue to hope that the IPA craze will begin to blow over this year, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. I still maintain that the style has jumped the shark. I mean, when breweries change the names of their beers from being ales to IPAs, things have gone too far. Both Flying Dog and Odell waved their magic wands last autumn and suddenly their pale and red ales, respectively, became IPAs: "Flying Dog renamed its Double Dog Double Pale Ale to Double Dog Double IPA earlier this year. Earlier this week, Odell Brewing confirmed that it would rebrand its Red Ale to Runoff Red IPA."

At least that's not as bad as naming your IPA "Mouth Raper" which, although a pretty tasteless name, no doubt stands as truth in advertising.

Sam Adams has a new IPA coming out, if it's not already on shelves, called Rebel IPA. Here's the label:

Notice how the brand's namesake is nowhere to be found. Apparently someone in the marketing department thought the label needed to be buzzword compliant, hence it looks "edgy" and says "IPA" on it. (That and it resembles a certain label by another brewer.)

And check this out:

The "craft" division of MillerCoors is now brewing a session IPA. Who'da thunk it? Recall how Third Shift's first brew was an amber lager. An amber lager and then a session IPA? I think they're copying the Wisconsin Brewing Company's playbook. A regular American IPA and porter can't be far behind.

I see that Sierra Nevada has three new IPAs coming out soon (Harvest Single Hop Mandarina, Nooner Session, and Snow Wit White) and Wisconsin brewers are doing their darnedest to keep up with their West Coast counterparts.

New to the Madison area are Utah's Epic Brewing and Hawaii's Kona Brewing. Kona will be pushing their Backwash pineapple IPA and Gnarly, a macadamia nut Russian imperial stout, on us. Wait. OK, no. Instead they will foist upon us their Big Wave Golden Ale and (gasp!) Longboard Island Lager. How odd for a brewery to begin distribution in a new state with nary a pale ale. They are doomed. Pele will have her imperial IPAs!

Epic, on the other hand, doesn't look to be making that mistake. From what I've seen, they're basically going all-out with most of the craft beer trends in the book - a couple of imperial stouts, multiple IPAs, and saisons – now with more brettanomyces!

Also new to the Madison area is beer from a brew outfit in Waukesha - 4 Brothers. The schtick here is that they offer beer admixtures. Beer is contracted brewed by Sand Creek and then the "blendmaster" puts them together in his lab. Sibling Rivalry contains blonde, brown, and red ales; Relative Madness is a blonde ale mixed with a porter; Prodigal Son features an IPA and a cream ale (you knew there just had to be an IPA here somewhere); and Whipper Snapper is a blend of American wheat, helles, and amber brews. Not sure if that's an amber ale or amber lager, though.

The company's website says the beers are available in Madison at Madison's on King Street while Riley's Wines of the World recently posted a photo of six packs on its Twitter feed.

On the one hand, I am intrigued. There may very well be some good beer to be had here. On the other, this comes across as sheer novelty. Granted, not novelty like a doughnut maple bacon ale, but a novelty nonetheless. Can't barrel age, can't add brett, and perhaps don't want to get involved in the IPA horserace so what do you do? It is certainly a unique selling point.

We can now all sleep easier at night knowing that Corona is going draft. I know there was a big Corona tap handle hole in my liver. The funny part is what Robert Sands, CEO of Constellation Brands and owner of the Corona brand, said:

Think about the craft business, okay? You're talking about tiny little brands that nobody's ever heard of outside their city...

How very odd. No one's ever heard of Sam Adams outside of Boston? No one in Chicago has heard of New Glarus and crosses the Cheddar Curtain just to buy it? Sierra Nevada isn't known outside of Chico? Fat Tire is a secret known only to the friendly folks of Fort Collins? To take a local example, you've got House of Brews that is certainly a tiny little brand that's mostly unknown outside of Madison but it seems to generally be on tap at places that don't even have Bud Light on tap, places that don't have many customers clamoring for Corona in bottles, let alone on draft.

Perhaps because I am not a CEO, I just don't understand Constellation's strategy. The company is not going to get tap handles in craft beer bars. Are they looking to knock off a token craft selection at taverns that are otherwise populated by Miller and Bud taps? If so, then that token craft brew is probably going to be Sam Adams or another craft brew that is certainly well-known outside of their city. I just don't understand what kind of establishments carry tiny little craft brews that would give one up for the chance to put Corona on tap.

Some random observations to finish the post:

1) I had my first Pecatonica beer last month – a Nightfall Lager. It was absolutely terrible. The beer had little body and was cloyingly sweet. It tasted a bit like wort.

2) A fairly recent visit to Trixie's Liquor revealed that they carry House of Brews' Rickhouse Bourbon Barrel Stout, MobCraft's brews, and Hydro Street bombers as well.

3) Ale Asylum will be bottling more this year. In addition to a TBD seasonal, 1 April brings Unshadowed, a weissbier. What happened to Hathaweizen?

4) Karben4 will be bottling in the near future. This is good news as it'd be nice to grab some NightCall to bring home while I'm out shopping.

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|| Palmer, 9:09 AM


Unshadowed is the same as Hatha-Weizen. They changed the name last year because they didn't think Hatha-Weizen was a good name for selling the beer outside of the taproom.
Blogger Joe Walts, at 2:14 PM  
That explains it. I was wondering if they re-formulated.

How are things out west?
Blogger Palmer, at 2:33 PM  

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