Monday, March 4, 2013

In Praise of Core Beers

One of the things I like about going to places like Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain is being able to walk through the doors in full assurance that I will be able to drink a beer that I will enjoy. It's not just a question of knowing that the brewers are very good at their jobs, which most certainly they are, but also because the breweries have a very strong core line up of beers.

Imagine then a scene, if you will. You walk through the doors of Blue Mountain Brewery, take a moment to take in the view, it really is stunning, and you park yourself at the bar. As you read the beer list you realise that you don't fancy any of the special or seasonal beers that are on tap, but you are comforted because you know that the Blue Mountain Classic Lager will be available and will be excellent. I realise that in this little tale I am assuming the drinker likes lager as much as I do, though the pale ale drinker could equally be happy with Full Nelson. I also realise that the visitor in this scenario is likely to be a repeat customer, a first timer would be recommended to get a sample flight. The same scene could easily be played out at Devils Backbone, where a pint of Vienna Lager never goes amiss. Actually, I am sure that in many brewpubs and brewery tasting rooms you could see this situation occur time and time again, and to my mind it is a sign of a good brewing business.

The thing that such breweries share is a core range of beers which are always available and and always good. It is a fact of life that beer is often a comfort, and comfort is often found in the familiar, the tried and tested. More often than not I find myself in a situation where all I want is a beer to unwind with, I don't want to think about it, I don't want to ruminate on the hop aroma, the strange and exotic ingredients that get chucked in, I just want a pint that I know will satisfy. This is where the core range comes in. Sure, the seasonals and specials might garner higher ratings on those websites that advocate such behaviour, but it is the core range that are the bedrock of a brewery and without a strong core, the brewery is on sinking sand.


  1. I agree with you. It seems like too often breweries (especially new ones) get so caught up with trying to outdo each other they neglect the core beers. The ones who never create a solid backbone have nothing to support themselves when the populace changes its opinions again.

  2. Indeed, the core range is paramount. Let the crazy and experimental stuff come, nut only after the core range is perfected.

  3. One of the things I find amazing about many breweries is how they offer up some really not very good wheat or "kolsch" or whatever at the bottom of their range, knowing that just about every first-time drinker is going to order a sampler and then immediately wonder why they bothered.

    Even if the beers get better from there, it always sets the wrong tone. At least *try* to make the "non-beer-drinker's beer" halfway decent.


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