There are plenty of trends that come and go in the beer industry — some good, some bad, depending on who you talk to.
From new styles, social media’s increasing role, cans taking over and new breweries popping up everywhere (and taking market share), there has been no shortage of change lately. Many innovative developments can be attributed to more competition which usually leads to better beer. But, some trends seem more fad and most of those can find the nearest drain.
Smaller breweries continue to open at a record clip, decentralizing capital and creating jobs; this creates resilience and independence in the local economy, along with potential efficiencies and direct, positive impacts.
But, just because a friend complimented you after the third glass of homebrew does not mean you should go pro. With such a glut of liquid currently — paradoxically, with more great liquid available, much of the new beer would be best unbrewed — unless you have world class talent, major capital and a unique niche — stick to the 9 to 5. What do I know though?
As for one newly recognized style, the NEIPA, great in its first iteration, recent interpretations seem to lower the bar with no adherence to visual aesthetics of an attenuated beer — even if occasionally tasty.
Undoubtedly, an interesting style when there is detectable bitterness, and tropical hops are paired with malt backbone, but the two note juice-box versions pander to the palate of a soda drinker.
Many are convinced the brewer’s intent is a mucky body for mouthfeel, as opposed to the reality of a company rushing to market with under-attenuated beer. But, each to their own ... Heady Topper please.
And, with “expert” beer drinkers driving ratings and hype via social media and photos of their beer “hauls,” subpar breweries are capitalizing on artificially inflated ratings; this smoke and mirror approach will not reward the subpar once the bottom falls out.
Some of these beer “experts” are also trying to bring levity back to a culture deemed too pretentious by posting “chugging videos.”
Beer culture should not be condescending, but not all beer is created equal, nor does it not need to be dumbed down or disrespected.
Nothing like chugging a $50 bottle of Cantillon Lambic, spontaneously fermented and aged to perfection, to prove money is no object and you’re a regular guy who also loves Natty Ice.
How about instead we acknowledge the work of a master over some 3D conversation? Even better, how about we put away the pocket computer to appreciate the nuances of a German Kellerbier? Now that would be refreshing.
This week’s recommendation: Mahr’s Brau Ungespundet-Lager, a full-bodied, unfiltered lager with smooth malt character, light floral hop aroma, and clean, crisp finish. 5.2 percent ABV. Bamberg, Germany
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica, New York.