Friday, October 1, 2010
The Session #44
This week the theme from our host, The Beer Wench, is "Frankenstein beers". It should be an interesting one. I don't know that there is anything that's categorized as a Frankenstein beer that I would intentionally drink. In my mind, these beers usually seem to be designed and shaped by marketing departments more than history or good taste. Perhaps it's the German in me, but to make an analogy, I would much rather have a well-built car than "the biggest car in the world" or a car that's half car and half scooter. I like car-cars, and beer that tastes like good beer. Something new and interesting can be nice, but it's rare that a reinvention of the wheel is an improvement on the original. Newness is not greatness, it's just sellable.
Now, before I start to sound like a torch-holding member of an angry mob, it's also important to note that almost every beer style probably started as a Frankenstein beer. Lager brewing was rejected in parts of Germany for years as an unwelcome "Frankenstein" beer compared to the top fermented Kolsches and ales of the time. Even beers we think of as being pretty regular, like American pale ale, was a Frankenstein version of English pale ales and ESB with citrusy American hops and loads of late hopping. By today's standards, they may seem dull or uninteresting, but 30 years ago something like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would not have tasted similar to most beers called "pale ale". Same goes for porter, lager, steam beer, IPA etc.
Every new idea and beer style was frankenbier at some point. So while I might not enjoy novelty brews just for the sake of novelty, all the beer we drink was a Frankenstein beer at some point, even ones which are steeped in tradition. So let's keep making and drinking Frankenstein beers, but let's do so with an eye on the future. I'd hate to see craft beer replaced by novelty beer. And that, fellow beer drinkers, is what we get to decide. We do so by drinking quality beer with an open mind, and by rejecting fads that reduce the quality of craft beer that we love.