Monday, June 21, 2010

A Strong Core

Last week I posted about the importance of getting simpler styles of beer right in order to be regarded as a great as opposed to a good brewer. Of course the phrase "simple styles" specifically referred to the types of beer that have very simple grain bills, perhaps even with just the one malt used, such as a pilsner made exclusively from the Pilsner base malt. As is my wont, I have being mulling over that idea and thinking that while I stand by my original assertion, there is more to being a great brewer than just being able to make a magnificent pale ale, bitter or pilsner.

I got to thinking about the importance of having a strong core range of beer, and how excellence across the core range is also a sign of a great brewer. Having used Sierra Nevada as my example in the previous post, I shall do so again. Their core range consists of the following five beers:

  • Pale Ale
  • Kellerweis
  • Porter
  • Stout
  • Torpedo Extra IPA
Now, I will be perfectly up front and honest and say that I am yet to try the Porter and the Stout, a major oversight on my part to be sure, especially given my love of darker beers, but one which will be rectified at my earliest convenience. If, however, you look at the rankings these beers get on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, they are consistently at the higher end of their respective scales. Their core range is thus solid and well regarded by the wider beer drinking community. Of course, Sierra Nevada brew their seasonal and one off beers, and they rate very highly in the ranking sites, imperfect as such sites are.

One off specials add a little sparkle to a brewer's offerings, that it is certain, but when there is a massive disparity in the opinions of the beer drinking community between specials and the core range, you have to ask questions as to whether or not a brewery is really all that great. There are always questions of who a brewery's target market is, whether it is the cognoscenti of the beer world, or the average Joe just looking for something cold and wet to drink when out grilling, or having just cut the grass. But this brings me back to my original point in last week's post, is there anything I would rather drink when grilling than a well made pale ale or pilsner anyway? Probably not.

I guess in some ways I just apt to disappointment when I try a brewery's seasonal and one-off beers and they are light years ahead of the core range as it begs the question, if you can do this style very well, why doesn't the core range reach those heights as well?

1 comment:

  1. Good points. And hard to answer. But try to answer I will.

    Several reasons, I guess. If you've tried the one-off's and seasonals first, and then go the normal range you might get disappointed because they won't be so "special". I mean, for those beers brewers put a bit of an extra effort (or at least they should). The other stuff is what pays the bills and, if you ask the brewers, it might not even be what they really like brewing, but they still have to do it.

    Another reason why the one-off's rate so high is because they are, well, one-off, and likely also more expensive, stronger, hard to get, etc, which are things that automatically add a points. Example of this is Wesvleteren 12 (no, I didn't buy it, I got it as a present, my soul is safe). Great beer, indeed, but not better than other Trappists or even a few Abbey Beers.

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