Friday, April 29, 2011

More is Better?

Sometimes, when I am feeling cynical, I imagine people hunkering down in the depths of a brewery to decide on a new beer to brew, and the winning arguments are always one of two things:
  • let's use Cascade* instead of East Kent Goldings/Saaz/insert hop here and call it an American insert style here
  • let's use even more Cascade* than we did last time, add about 4% more alcohol and call it an Imperial/Double
Said beer gets a couple of decent reviews on websites and hey presto, every brewery within a thousand mile radius starts doing the exact same thing. Usually during such reveries of insanity, I can hear my teenage self muttering "it's not big, it's not clever".

Perhaps I am being harsh, though not as harsh as some hop bombs, but I find it gets a little tedious and tiresome. Especially when new brewpubs and breweries open up and start doing the exact same thing as everyone else. One of the reasons I am so happy to have Devils Backbone just down the road is for those times when a pint or two of Vienna Lager is called for, and the fact Jason makes classic lagers so damned well.

My aim though today is not to rant on about the continued cascade of hoppy beer obliterating everything in its path like a 21st century pilsner. Rather to wonder if it is possible to have too many breweries or brewpubs in a given area?

The instinctive part of many will say that you can never have too much craft beer, but I wonder where the tipping point would be between a vibrant craft brewing scene and one tolerant of second rate beer - even given the fact that the most rank of craft beers is likely to be tastier than many a multinational produced beer?

The emergence of more craft breweries and brewpubs naturally encourages existing players to up their games, but part of me wonders, what happens when the more established breweries realise that the new guys aren't really up to much and as such not so much of a threat? Do they relax their standards, become complacent and start living on former glories?

I guess I would rather see fewer breweries but consistently high standards of beer than a glut of slightly better than mediocre beer.

* Cascade here is obviously a catch all for C-hops and the like.

1 comment:

  1. I tend to agree. This is America, so "more is always better" but despite what people tell you, there can not be an infinite amount of breweries who're all trying to grow and expand at an infinite rate. I think we're getting very close to the point where small breweries start choking each other out. The market is pretty small and many of these guys are succeeding only by selling things as a novelty, which is a strategy with a pretty short shelf-life.

    However, I do think that beer customers are extremely fickle, so I don't see any non-global brewery being able to relax standards for very long.

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