American Beer Overkill?

Questioning whether we've gone over the top and around the bend


Step with me, if you dare, into the Craft Beer Time Machine. Turn that dial back, back, baaack … all the way back to the year 2006. Ancient times!

Imagine: Bush is still president and Busch is still American. Garrett Oliver’s “The Brewmaster’s Table” has only been out for a few months, and you snicker when someone says “beer sommelier.” Ten taps in a bar seem like more than enough, and a double IPA might mean two of them in a big glass. And a black IPA? Don’t be an ass.

OK, now we’re back in 2011. Take a fresh look around. High-dollar, five-course beer dinners are commonplace with the odd one fetching as much as $350 a person. A group of people are calling themselves “Cicerones.” Most big American cities have at least one taphouse with 50 to 100 fonts. At last check, the world’s strongest “beer” is 60 percent alcohol and fetches more than $45 a bottle. On the surface, anyway, it looks like beer is getting ever stronger, ever rarer, ever costlier, ever more special.

Maybe you don’t see it. I guess there’s a chance that you’re among the geekiest of the geeks, and that you personally will never get tired of triple-imperial-barrel-aged whatsits or pairing kvass with caviar and Kandinsky, or whatever. If that’s the case, I’m jealous.

Everyone else: Isn’t it all getting a bit precious? A bit pretentious? A bit much?

Or, to put it another way: Has the cool craft beer Fonz finally jumped the proverbial shark? Aren’t we forgetting about the Richie Cunninghams of the world, who just want a flavorful glass of something drinkable — or, preferably, several glasses — in a friendly place at a fair price?



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6 Comments

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I think Anonymous @2:33 PM is missing the point as many "beer advocates" often do. Just because one prefers not to drink giant, over-hopped, barrel-aged IIPAs and RISs that toss in "exotic ingredients" simply for the sake of being experimental, doesn't mean one is necessarily drinking Anheiser Busch, Miller, Coors, etc. Many of us burned out on these extreme beers years ago when we were in our early 20s and are now looking to drink something a bit more refined, sophisticated, and perhaps even subtle. Maybe something that is dry and yeast- or grain-forward, rather than sweet, highly alcoholic, and hop-forward. Maybe something that tastes like beer instead of chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, etc. Maybe even something I can drink a 750 ml bottle of and still be able to take care of my kids. Surely, there's room in the craft beer scene to accomodate our tastes as well.

tdm-35-icon.png

Point taken, Greg. If at any point in this article I made the mistake of implying that I was referring to the entire beer market, I apologize. Naturally we are talking about the ever-growing craft beer segment here, and the article was in a magazine (Draft) aimed at craft beer drinkers.

I like big beers too. Most of us too. I just want to see more (and better) smaller ones. That's OK, right?

And thank you for making Levitation.

-Joe Stange

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The 2% specialty high end part of the 5% (market share of craft) of the beer industry is not going to create any sea changes anytime soon. By that (rough guesstimate) calculation puts your article's subject matter at 0.1% of the beer industry. A bit of a tempest in a teapot really. You're suggesting that a very small tail is capable of wagging a very large dog.

Craft beer is still growing. It's fun. It's creative. Let's not rush to limit what it can be. Not just yet.

Cheers,

Greg Koch, Stone Brewing Co.

tdm-35-icon.png

Regarding the related video History of American Beer: Who the heck is Hans Fritz? Is he related to Fritz Maytag?

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Great article. I agree with you 100%. It is getting to be a bit much.

tdm-35-icon.png

I'm sorry, but there are plenty of place to get more accessible (read...cheap lager) beer. I'm a beer geek and I love the selection I can find at specialty wine stores and places like Churchkey, but those places cater to me. For every Wholefoods with 1 or 2 spaces for the macro beer there is a Giant with 1 or 2 spaces for a semi-craft beer. For every Churchkey with 0 AHB products there are ten D.C. bars with nothing but.

If the devil on your shoulder loves craft beer and you have the $12 for a bomber of it then there are more and more options for you. That said if the devil on you shoulder wants PBR or Bud Light...you are not hurting for options. Trust me, Anheiser Busch, Miller, Coors, etc. are not going out of business anytime soon. How can increased quality and choice be a bad thing

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