Oliver Gray, of the Literature & Libation site, has penned a thoughtful and witty article, here, to set out May’s Beer Blogging Session topic. He indicates some lassitude with the beer scene and his own interest in beer and breweries, and wonders if it may be symptomatic of a broader trend. He asks for input from bloggers whether yea, nay or other. Below is my contribution, which is an edited version of a comment I made on Oliver’s posting the other day.
Sample quote from Oliver: “Maybe it’s the politics of purchasing or selling. Maybe the subculture has peaked. Maybe this is the natural progression of a hobby that has no real tie to the industry behind it”.
I don’t feel the way Oliver indicates. And I’ve been following beer and the beer industry since the mid-1970s.
I think it may come down to a very in-depth appreciation of the beer palate, I mean at its best. That is a continual search, it doesn’t end with the next 100 craft breweries to come to your attention, or the last 500. It goes on because you enjoy the great experiences when they occur and the unpredictability of the search.
For some (and I’m not saying Oliver), it is enough to have tried the major categories, travelled to some beer destinations, and read a lot of books and online sources on beer. But for me, it’s the taste that is really important. Very few beers really have the “right” taste, meaning obviously one I think is nigh perfect. But some do, they can be craft beers, non-craft, imports. I just know when I encounter a particularly fine example of a beer type and that’s probably what keeps it going for me, the search. Indeed it can vary within a brand as the way a beer is handled before you drink it can result, and often does, in different tastes for the same beer.
My suggestion is – to anyone once a certain knowledge is gained – focus on what you really like. One needn’t try everything, or be up on every new brewery. Once past a certain point, we have all tried more than enough to scope the beer palate. While I am interested in all styles of beer especially from a historical point of view, I don’t usually drink more than a small number of styles. Rarely sour beers, for example – but occasionally I’ll find one that shows me how interesting they can be. Rarely smoked ones, unless again I find one particularly good, e.g., Roog BraufactuM, a smoked dark wheat beer from Radeberger (Germany) I had the other day.
I like pale ales, porters, blonde lagers and dark lagers, mostly. Last night I had a Krombacher Dark draft that was virtually perfect – the perfect dunkel style, for me – others are free to dispute.
Also, there are many side-streets in the beer world. There is a huge amount to learn about beer history, for example. About malt. About hops, or yeast – characteristics, history, flavours.
It never really ends, there is always more to learn. The beer palate is the core of it for me, but I find all the aspects really interesting: Heineken’s new Brewlock dispense system, say, which I wrote about recently. I pay no mind to the fact that Heineken may not interest many craft fans. I make my own judgments about what I think is good or interesting, as all readers should.
But there is nothing wrong with not being committed, that’s okay of course. If it’s run its course with anyone, that’s fine, but it is not (I believe) any harbinger of what is in store for the industry. I predict its continued growth and the continued availability of better beer.