Smell the Beer

Smell the Beer

June 2013 [Issue #104]

There’s been some chatter in the national media about the “winification” of craft beer. Whatever that means. There’s no denying the fact that craft beer has changed dramatically in the last 15 years or so. In the ’90s the craft beer experience mostly meant picking up a six-pack of something made in small batches by a, relatively speaking, small brewery. You were choosing something with flavor over something bland and generic. Then came seasonal releases, small-batch 22 oz. bottles, even beers corked and caged in Champagne-style bottles. This is when things started to get really interesting flavor-wise, as brewers continued to push the envelope and craft beer drinkers supported their efforts with fervor.

Which brings us to the modern “extreme” era of craft beer. Not everything out there is extreme, though. Any brewery will tell you their bread and butter is the regular every-day stuff that still gets sold in 6-packs. But beers are being sold now that no one would have dreamed would have multi-state distribution even 10 years ago, much less local, small-scale appeal. These are beers with huge flavors and complexity. And, yeah, they cost more, because it costs a lot more to make them. Does all this make them more like wine? Yes, but only in the sense that these brews have character worth appreciating.

The point is this (finally!), it’s no more pretentious to talk about or appreciate the interesting aspects of a fine craft beer—the nose, the palate, the appearance—than it is to geek out on the intricacies—the drum sound, the production, the performance, that fucking sick riff—of the latest [insert your favorite band name here]. Metal heads have been dissecting our music, good and bad, since it was invented. That’s what the majority of this magazine is about. That’s because there’s something to talk about. If everything sounded like AC/DC (or tasted like Miller Genuine Draft), then there would be nothing to talk about.

Thank your favorite deity/celestial being/demon ov hell that that isn’t the case. Go ahead and pour your craft beer into a goddamn glass, look at the incredible color and stick your snoot next to it and sniff. Probably smells pretty damn good. And if you think about it, you might be surprised at what’s in there as a natural result of the brewing process—just the combination of yeast, malt and hops can produce some amazing aromas. Same with the taste: pine, tangerine, caramel, pineapple. A good IPA or double IPA may have all of these and more.

Brewers put a lot of effort into their art, just like musicians do. There’s nothing wrong with geeking out on a really amazing beer. There are a lot of them out there right now.