by Tony Forder
There seems to be a new style emerging in the ever-evolving craft beer world – Style Defying. Brewers appear to be trying to outdo each other in creating “kitchen sink” beers that are impossible to fit into any accepted beer style, and may also warrant entry into the Guinness Book of World Records for longest beer names. The folks that run the Great American Beer Festival do their best to keep up with new styles – indeed this year they added the “Juicy or Hazy IPA” category which immediately became the most popular slot with almost 400 entries, although curiously few if any came from New England, the origin of the style. I guess they still have the catch-all category “Experimental”, but I think they did away with “Other”. Look for “Style Defying” to be added next year.
While some beers purposely make fun of style categories – remember the oxymoronic Imperial Mild moniker and Rushing Duck’s Divided by Zero, described as an Imperial Session, Pale Black IPA, others deliberately go way outside of the box, stomp on it, rip it up and set it on fire.
Don’t call it an Imperial Stout, say Dogfish Head and Beer Advocate of their latest collaboration – Double New England Maple Pastry Black Coffee Milkshake IPA. Didn’t they forget some stuff in there? Well, they coulda called it Double New England Maple Coconut Lactose Vanilla Cocoa Pastry Black Coffee Milkshake IPA, for those were some of the other ingredients. Oh yeah, they used HBC-472 experimental hops as well. Of course, the beer was a 1-off, served at Beer Advocate’s recent IPA fest in Boston, as well as at Dogfish Head’s brewery outlets in Delaware. If the beer itself wasn’t enough, it was served with hops-infused glitter whipped cream created by DFH’s Brewings & Eats head chef, Lou Ortiz.
Single Style Fests
So, there’s another development – festivals for particular styles of beer. As we see, IPA fests have come into vogue (Festival of Dankness, San Diego), as have Sour Fests (Sour’d in September, Captain Lawrence, NY; Tart in the Heartland, St. Louis). But single style festivals are not really that new. There’s the long-running FOBAB Chicago’s Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers, although, sure there’s a slew of different styles in those barrels. For a Stout Fest, try the Festival of Dark Arts (Astoria, OR). (Although not exactly a festival, Ale Street News held a Russian Imperial Stout night at the Russian Tea Room back in the 1990s.) In mid-January there’s the Alaska Barleywine Festival in Anchorage and Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines in Breckenridge, CO, both with many years under their belts. Lambic festivals such as the Night of Great Thirst celebrate Lambic’s revival in Belgium.
No doubt a Gose Festival is on the horizon; perhaps a Chocolate Beer fest? Chili Beer fest? Cucumber Beer fest? Session Beer fest? Kolsch fest? Grodziskie fest? Okay, okay.
Meanwhile VinePair takes brewers and consumers alike to task for ceaseless new releases, mostly in cans. Says writer Aaron Goldfarb, “Breweries are releasing new beers at unprecedented speeds, catering to a consumer culture more interested in diversifying their Untappd portfolios than in necessarily drinking something great.” I went to an Other Half tap takeover at the Blind Tiger recently where most of the beers were hop variations on similar Double IPAs. Other Half found it necessary to release 126 beers this year (according to Beer Menus). Barebottle in San Francisco counted 138, while even established veteran Stone had 83 new releases just to keep up. Read about this new “Line” or “Ticker” Culture here.
Craft Beer Definition
What else is going on? The Brewers Association has once again adjusted its Craft Beer definition. They have dropped the word “Traditional” from the definitions, saying the word “stifles the innovation that our breweries are using to survive or succeed.”
A BA press release regarding the decision stated, “In a recent survey of our members, we found that approximately 40 percent of the membership is already brewing—and more than half would consider making in the future—products that fall outside the existing Brewers Association traditional pillar, such as cider or mead or products taxed as beer (hard seltzers/flavored sugar beverages/sake/alcoholic kombucha, etc.). Furthermore, nearly half surveyed said they’d entertain making beers that contain CBD or THC (components of cannabis) should the regulatory structure change federally around those potential products.”
As some have noted, the latest change comes as the BA’s biggest constituent, Boston Beer Co. is showing more growth with its Angry Orchard ciders and Truly Spiked and Sparkling hard seltzer than it is with its Samuel Adams beer brands. More explanation of the changes here.
In their fourth quarterly meeting held in November, the BA’s board of directors also approved a new Taproom Brewery voting member class, which will go into effect in 2019 and implemented the development of a political action committee (PAC) for 2019.
Genesee Keg Tree
Disconnect from social media and take a break from the 24-hour political news cycle, was the invitation from Genesee Brewing Co. (Rochester, NY) to come out and see their Keg Tree Lighting Dec. 7. Every year Genesee Brewing builds a giant Christmas tree out of 520 empty beer kegs that stands three stories high and is covered with more than 30,000 colored lights.