Since we are passing not only into a new year but also a new decade I started thinking about how we will remember beer in the 2000’s. Also if I'm honest I just felt like having a rant.
To me the last few of years in craft brew feel like a break out. This year I tried the anniversary Export which was released with the original 50’s recipe. Having a glass of beer from the 50’s makes you realise we have been drinking variations on the same bland theme for a very long time. However over the last decade we broke the mold and as the 2000’s close we have a booming little craft brew industry.
The last couple of years have been pretty frantic and exciting for beer lovers everywhere. New styles seem to pop up every month, black IPA, red IPA and even smoked peat IPA!
It feels a bit like the 60’s when people put the dark suits and hats of the last 200 years away and got into some serious experimentation. In retrospect the result was mildly embarrassing. The pictures from that time tell the story, guys standing with that slack jawed pose that confirms their pants were too tight and their vision obscured as they peer out of their orange-tinted spectacles.
It wasn’t just a revolution it was an all out rebellion. Nothing else could explain the strange colours, the weird clothes, and what was up with painting flowers on cars, pants and album covers!
Of cause by the time the 70’s rolled around the world was feeling a bit foolish about the flowers and the flares. In contrast the 70’s was the decade of man and coolness. We picked the colour brown, built rock walls in our living rooms and conversation pits. The chest hair and the carpets were long, both often cushioning other peoples wives. The world was once again cool and we focused on sophistication, blending the good bits of the 60’s wild experimentation with what we knew was cool all along.
The last few years feels like the 60’s. Replace the daisy with the hop and you get the picture. The last couple of years in particular has seen a focus on packing larger and larger amounts of hops into everything. It’s good to a point and that point now seems to be one beer before the ‘drys’ take over and you need a tall glass of water.
As a leader in this movement Dogfish Head came up with the continuous hop process, inventing a machine to pack more hops into beer. The same brewery was also the poster-boy for experimentation, making beer with wood from surf boards, human chewed corn and other such curiosities.
All that experimentation has been for a good cause with new styles born and limits pushed. But this year I was surprised to see a few breweries going the other way, talking about producing more subtle and mature beers with less hops. We are now seeing those palettes born during the hop explosion moving towards Belgium beer, experiencing yeast flavours and malt. The result is many brands carrying a big boy IPA but broadening the rest of the range to take in a larger group of styles and tastes, including some more traditional varieties. It has a touch of the 70’s consolidation to it.
It will be very interesting to see how the industry evolves over the next few years as we consolidate all that experimentation, our palates mature and more drinkers come into the craft beer fold. It might be that we look back on beer made with 100 hops and surf board wood as mildly embarrassing.