Friday, September 4, 2015

The Session: The Emperor's New Style


This month's Session is being hosted by Natasha from Meta CookBook, and her theme as stated in the announcement is:

For this session, I’m asking my fellow beer bloggers two related qustion questions:

  1. What do you want people in beer culture to be talking about that we’re not?
  2. What do you have to say on the topic(s)?
“Beer” is its own subculture at this point. There’s an expected “look” and expected desires. Beer festivals are everywhere. Beer blogs flourish; indeed at this point there’s reasonable sub categories for them. New breweries are popping up at record pace; the US alone has more than 3,000. Big breweries are getting bigger, some are being purchased, some are saying that’s bullshit.

But we’re still fairly monolithic as a group. And there are a number of problems related to that tendency toward sameness. Not all problems related are personal, for example trademark disputes are becoming more commonplace as we all have the same “clever thought”.

We have such a good time with our libation of choice that sometimes we fear bringing up the issues we see.

Well, stop that. Air your concerns, bring up those issues. Show us what we’re not talking about and should be, and tell us why.

Pour us a liberal amount of The Hard Stuff.
If you've ever sat in the pub with me, you'll know that I can be quite the opinionated swine, so I have to say I love this topic, especially in light of some of the comments made by Jean Hummler of Moeder Lambic at last week's European Beer Blogger Conference which filled my Twitter feed for a while. Although I wasn't there, and thus my grasp of his theme is second hand, rather like many a denunciation of Pelagian theology when we have no extant writing of Pelagius himself, from the snippets I have seen I agree with him wholeheartedly. The beer world seems to seriously lack critical thought.

When I say we lack critical thought, I am not making a plea for a phenomenology of malt, a post-modern appreciation for the isomerisation of hops, or even a existential examination of the ester producing qualities of saccharomyces cerevisiae. What I am saying is that we need less of the fanboy/girl 'craft beer is awesome' bullshit, less of the mindless cheerleading (and its converse the mindless caterwauling when things happen that don't fit our narrative), and less of the inane buzz words/phrases like 'local beer', 'rising tide floats all boats', or 'innovative'.

My particular ire though is raised at the sight of supposedly creating a new beer style by virtue of adding hops not from the UK or Central Europe. You know how it goes, one day you're drinking a nice Foreign Extra Stout and the next some unimaginative muppet dumps a shit load of Cascade into the kettle and hey presto it's a 'Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale/Whatever Marketing Term Sells This Week'. So you reach for a pint of amber ale only to discover that it positively reeks with C-hops and is being whored about the bars of your neighbourhood as a 'Red IPA'. The same could be said about 'White IPA'. 'Session IPA', 'India Pale Lager', and whatever beer style gets fucked over with an unhealthy addition of New World hops to keep the braying masses of raters and tickers whipped into a veritable wank fest frenzy.

Another thing that pisses me off about these supposed styles is the speed at which they get accepted into the canon of styles on sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. Yet it took years for the admins, moderators, and other 'experts' to recognise that a Czech tmavý ležák is not really a Munich Dunkel or a Schwarzbier. Perhaps Czech brewers should dump a ton of New World hops into a dark lager and 'invent' the 'Black India Pale Lager' or some such spurious nonsense.

So yes, Jean Hummler is right. Beer bloggers and consumers need to start calling out the bullshit that seems to be a disturbingly increasing part of the industry. We need to start questioning the bold claims being made about innovative this, envelope pushing that, and stop parroting the party line because we are afraid being seen as the uncool element of the beer world.

Here endeth the lesson.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting. But not the "style police", more like a call for style vigilantism?

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  2. To be honest, though, given that a lot of American brewers probably dry hop their breakfast cereal, it's inevitable that someone's going to decide that what's wrong with kölsch is that it hasn't been amped up to 7% ABV and dry-hopped to buggery with Chinook and Citra.

    And when that happens, calling it an Imperial Kölner Awesomebock or something seems like the lesser of two evils - the other option is for them to keep calling it a kölsch, at which point you have to put up with loads of earnest Ratebeer types telling you that the best kölsch in the world is produced in California and that the European "interpretations" of the style are all a bit bland and watery.

    (In fact, I've just checked, and the current Ratebeer "Best Kölsch In The World" is brewed in Washington DC and dry-hopped with Galaxy. *sighs*)

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