(This is part 2 of my craft beer predictions for 2019. You can read part 1 here).
I like a full English breakfast as much as the next person. There’s really nothing like sitting down to a plate of heart attack and eggs the morning after a long night of beer ‘research’.
But I wouldn’t want a full English breakfast every day. Not only would I get fat(ter) but the sense of anticipation of having one, of longing for it (which let’s be honest is pretty much most of the fun) would no doubt quickly fade away.
I’m beginning to feel a bit the same about my craft beers.
Freddy Mercury once said “The bigger the better, in everything”. And although he probably wasn’t thinking about beer when he said it a lot of craft brewers have been singing along to Freddy’s tune anyway, churning out liquid statements of excess in a seemingly never-ending spiral of one-upmanship.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a 14% Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Chocolate Ice Cream Russian Imperial Stout every once in a while! We need statement beers like that to pull more people into craft, to demonstrate just how amazingly versatile beer can be and to showcase the insanity, creativity and unrestrained joy of craft brewers.
My only problem with them is that they can take up a disproportionate amount of our attention and, like Freddy, steal all the limelight. And when these beers start being cited as the new benchmark for their style I feel the need to call for a time-out.
Take IPA for instance. Right now if you scroll through social media you’ll be confronted by thousands of images of cloudy glasses of IPA brewed in the New England style – which means it’s rich, thick, smells of freshly squeezed tropical fruit and has little to no noticeable bitter finish.
Which is quite the opposite of what IPAs originally tasted like, which were altogether more earthy, herbal and often spitefully bitter.
Ask most craft breweries right now, today, to brew an IPA and chances are they’ll be pressured into chasing the haze. Because beautifully clear IPAs, brewed without oats or days spent on kilos of dry hops and which are actually bitter are currently being marked down by the Internet’s juice juries.
Which, in my opinion, is a shame. Because we should be able to appreciate IPA in all its forms, and not let the level of mango flavour decide whether it is a good IPA or not.
So is 2019 the year we finally say enough is enough to ‘extreme’ beers and slowly return to more traditional and accessible interpretations of our favourite beer styles?
No. Not a chance. We’re still nowhere near finished chasing our hop highs yet, so you may as well buckle up, enjoy the ride and pass me my glass of Jalapeño infused Belgium Quintuple Rum Barrel-Aged Porter, if you’d be so kind.