Striking a balance between the new wave of exciting extreme beers and the beers that made them possible can be a task. Hype, hypersensitivity, and a attitude of lament can make one upset about what he or she hasn’t had. I’m as guilty as anyone, so I’m not pointing the finger. But isn’t it singularly odd how the wider frame of technological advance and the like affect our dispositions? Think about it: aren’t we normally looking for the latest and greatest gadgets? One begins to feel a bit like Brave New World is happening right under our noses. Are we doing the same thing with beers? To quote Homer Simpson, “Our gastronomic capacity knows no satiety.” But maybe that is what happens sometimes; the shear inundation and bewildering variety of beers simply washes us away. I’m tired of the illusion that I can keep up.
What can be done? I think an appeal should be made here–an appeal for the classics. Sure, I realize that advances in beer technology, malting, and curiosity drives forward the mechanism of beer styles. The classics exist because people ventured out. The same amount of breakneck speed that we have today does not apply, in the same way, that the slow advance of experimentation did. The stream of history is now a rushing current. I think, in a real sense, that we aren’t, or maybe even can’t, create classics in the same sense that people did before. Things simply move too fast these days.
I’m suggesting that we ground ourselves a little bit in history, the tried and true, the slow pace of less industry. It’s strange to think that most beer styles were developed before or shortly after the current industrialization of the world. Let me clarify that classic and standard are not the same thing; Budweiser is the standard American Lager, but it’s hardly a classic. So, when I say classic styles, I mean classic renderings of styles. Maybe archetypes would be a more nuanced phrase.
Am I just being a naysayer? Not really! I’d venture to say that I love extreme beers as much as anyone…but not at the expense of our beer heritage. Sometimes people speak about how bored they’ve become with the fact that every brewery makes this or that style. I’m personally of the opinion the the style should not be on trial, only its rendering. Even if craft brewing is really catching on, many are missing the boat simply because they don’t want a quadruple IPA. I’m not saying to dumb it down–just pull it back a little.
Is anyone else tracking with this? Maybe we’re bored because we’re boring in our unending thirst for the new. It’s a bit ironic when our iconoclasm becomes platitudinal. Don’t simply mistake this for railing against the new. What I’m saying is this: like eating, drinking, sleeping and living, I’m asking myself to have a balance in approach rather than a lopsided solecistic attitude toward beer.
What do you think? Will you do the same? I fully intend to revisit this topic before long. Until then, how about a Hefe-Weizen, a true Pilsner, or a simple Bitter? My ideal brewery makes some really good classics along with the really bad ass new ones. What about yours?
***Note*** I want to be fair and state that some breweries are making classics, even if they are on Hegelian terms (thesis–>antitheis—>synthesis). I’m more of a Kierkegaard guy (either/or).