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Things I’m just not going to do …

Apr 22, 2023

… in 2023, as a fifty-six year old beer drinker of 40+ years.

1. Use the term, “West Coast IPA”.

Trying to get people to define what they actually mean by this, usually elicits all manner of responses that lack any kind of consensus, or cohesion or clarity. That’s not surprising since there is no such ‘style’. What used to be simply a phrase to describe an American IPA that was brewed on the West Coast (and perhaps had some typical, dank, piney, big, bruising palate crushing characteristics à la Ruination), has come to mean (I think) any, “non-hazy” IPA. Err, we already have a style designation for that, it’s called an American (D)IPA. It’s not hard, stop making shit up.

2. Go to breweries with tap lists like this one.

Dot & Line Tap List 4/21/23This is the Tap List of Dot & Line Brewing here in Fort Wayne, IN today, 4/21/23. It’s VERY typical of so many breweries that I walk into these days. A seltzer (not beer), two “smoothie sours” (whatever the hell they are, but they’re not beer), two enormous stouts one of which is filled with candy bars, three hazy IPAs that I won’t drink, one wheat beer laden with more fruit, to leave a Cream Ale that I would (and have) drunk, and a 9% Imperial Porter that might drink but there we go again, more adjunct shit. What that boils down to is a single beer out of eleven that I would drink.

I’m not singling Dot & Line out here, they just happen to provide a great example that is being repeated all over the place. I’ve met the brewer and he seemed like a sensible bloke, who knows beer, which for me makes that list all the more tragic. The reason I’m aware of Dot & Line’s list is that I check it regularly since they are local to me, and in the hope that I might see something that doesn’t look like that – so far that’s been pretty much in vain, although they do make a nice Vienna lager which is HUGELY welcome. Why not more, simple, traditional, relatively low ABV styles on a regular basis? Why not stouts and porters with no shit in them? Or why not three beers out of eleven that I might want as a legacy drinker?

3. Refer to fake (kettle) ‘sours’, as sours.

If you brew an actual Gueuze, Flanders Red, Oud Bruin, Gose, ‘Lambic’ or a Berliner Weiss and you don’t add fruit, then I’m in. If you make molten sour patch kids, then just stand up and call them what they are, candy based beverages for children, and don’t insult Europe’s great tradition of brewing real sour beer.

4. Drink Hazy ‘IPAs’, beers with chunks or glitter, fake sours (see above) or melted candy bars masquerading as ‘stouts’.

For much of my drinking life I’ve pretty much lived by the the mantra that I’ll drink any beer at least once. That was true for years and years and years. I always felt it gave my criticisms more gravitas, and showed that I was well-rounded in terms of my experience. However, beer that looks like orange juice is a singularly unappealing optic to me, and the soft, squidgy nature of New England IPAs mean they just don’t taste like beer to me. As a result I’ve long since changed my original philosophy on drinking anything once, and I’m not going to drink ‘beer’ that I think is shit.

5. Embrace cans.

I hate them. They are inelegant, often suffer from under carboation in several styles, and remove the sheer beauty, majesty and sophistication of something corked & caged in 750 or 375 mL. I’m 100% uninterested in environmental, packaging and transporting concerns, arguments or issues.

6. Pay Tavour, $6.99 for 16oz of a simple beer (Pilsner, Brown Ale, Pale Ale etc.) from a brewery that’s 10 minutes old.

I’ve written about this before and this phenomenon is totally nuts. I really, really want to support new breweries, and I am willing to take a chance and buy beer from them, but there is ZERO chance of me doing so if you’re offering me the equivalent of $31.46 a six pack, PLUS shipping, from a TOTALLY unproven brewery, when at the beer store I can get 66 oz of Pilsner Urquell for around $10. How does any other decision compute for a person that knows anything about beer? I’m dumbfounded.

7. Allow people to use the word ‘lager’ without specificity.

The silly bandwagon hype over lagers has been bugging me a while now, but when a bartender says to me, “Would you like a lager?” I just about lose my shit. My response is curt, and usually goes something like, “I dunno, is it a Doppelbock or is it an American Adjunct?” How can you be lumping these things together in one sentence? It’s dumb; do better, and until you do I’m going to call you on it.

5 Comments

  1. Alex

    I agree with basically everything here (except the last point, which, to me, is an issue that life is too short for). What you wrote here and elsewhere (regarding ‘legacy drinkers’) clearly shows that you dislike modern adjuncts and added flavourings. I completely agree. But I do wonder, though, where you draw the line and what it is that makes you accept Belgian kriek, beers with spices (e.g., the Chimay 150), various offerings from Fantome that has all manners of adjunct ingredients, and so on. Presumably it is the tradition of Belgian brewing that makes it acceptable, but that is not a completely convincing argument. In 100 years, American imperial porters with vanilla will be an entrenched tradition. Will those be acceptable once enough time has passed for them to be inducted into the pantheon of legacy drinks?

    Note that I completely agree that the modern adjunct craze is ridiculous and harmful to beer culture, but I want to go further and say that I only classify as beer those brews that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot. That does not mean that I won’t occasionally enjoy a trappist or saison with coriander or ginger, but I really view them as belonging to a different category, something closer to ‘flavoured beer’ or ‘beer based drink’. They cannot be compared like for like with ‘pure’ beer. Just compare this to wine. For example, Vermouth is (fortified) wine with added spices/herbs etc, but we don’t refer to it as ‘wine’.

    It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

    Reply
    • Ding

      Hi Alex.

      Firstly, thanks for taking the time to write down a few thoughts, here are my rebuttals.

      I think the biggest difference between beers like Chimay 150 and Fantômes when compared to the stuff we all understand is strangling the current market, is that (to me at least) they still are recognizable as BEER. Much of the adjunct laden contemporary American landscape simply does not! A large portion of that output is essentially fruit and sugar based “alternative beverages”, where all semblance of “beer” has been lost. I would argue that subtle adjunct addition is not the same as the kind of thing we have witnessed recently. It’s really the difference between an adult palate and the palate of a child.

      Is that subjective? I suppose so, but are you seriously suggesting that Chimay 150 should be compared to “Snickers Marshmallow Cream Puff Cereal Stout” in terms of the adjunct addition and their relevance over time? If you are, then there’s really no point in us having this conversation.

      As such, your point about the passage of time is highly relevant. The styles/beers that have existed for centuries (even those that sit well outside the constraints of the Reinheitsgebot) have, by definition, proven to be “worthy”. Your question about modern styles ultimately lasting that long and doing the same is, for my money, irrelevant – they won’t, and moreover they should be treated with contempt in the meantime. If these beverages were not marketed as “beer” I’d be significantly less upset, but just spend 20 seconds at Tavour or Untappd and you’ll see the corruption of culture on a daily basis – it’s tragic.

      Reply
  2. Alex

    Hi Ding,

    We all have our own level of what we find acceptable in terms of beer adjuncts and what we still recognise as beer. In one post, you got irritated that some American brewer had added vanilla to their stout. Other people love stouts with vanilla, coffee etc. One of the most highly regarded stouts in the UK at the moment is a plum stout. Many of these drinks can be very tasty, but I categorise them, as CAMRA wisely do, as ‘speciality beer’ or flavoured beer.

    What I would like to see is the whole industry move towards pure beer, that is, water, malt, yeast and hops. This is what the wine industry has managed to maintain all around the world (i.e., wine is pure wine, without additives). People will and should continue to enjoy speciality flavoured beer with ginger and coriander or indeed stouts with vanilla, but the less we see of flavoured beers, the sooner we can overcome the “corruption of culture” that you mentioned.

    Btw, I recently drank various German bocks and one of them, pale in colour, reminded me a bit of certain tripels. But at the same time, the awareness that all the flavour and aroma in that beer had been produced by the brewer using only the basic raw materials, without any shortcuts in terms of added spices, made it such a beautiful experience. It was my most memorable beer experience in some time.

    Reply
    • Ding

      There’s a rich tradition of adding various adjuncts to various beers, BUT in all of those prior cases, the beer still ended up basically looking and tasting like beer! In the contemporary US scene we have “sours”, smoothies, fruit purees, seltzers, juices, and lactose drinks that are essentially alternative beverages for the juvenile palate and eye. People that drink these things quite LITERALLY “don’t like beer”. These drinks are far enough removed from beer, for the moniker to have become irrelevant. I think that’s the difference

      Reply
      • Alex

        I absolutely understand you, but I’m probably less generous towards the Belgian tradition of using adjuncts. I don’t agree that in all of those prior cases, the beverage ended up tasting as beer. Belgian kriek doesn’t taste like beer to me. It tastes like a beer cocktail with added cherry juice. Similarly lambics etc. don’t taste like beer to me. I view them as a distinct category of fermented beverage using maltose as its fermentable sugar, flavoured with hops.
        I wouldn’t dismiss beers with lactose. It’s not more of an adjunct than any other type of sugar. The traditional English milk stout is, in my view, one of the great beer styles. I still enjoy Mackeson’s milk stout at 2.8% abv, whenever I can find it in the supermarket. But I know you weren’t talking about traditional milk stouts, but rather abominations like milkshake-tonka bean-coffee-whatever beverages that mascerade as beer.

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