Yesterday was April Fools Day, so of course there were many spoof announcements made by brewery websites. I’ll collect the best 10 or so of those and post them tomorrow. For today, here’s the rest of recent beer news. We’ll start with a listicle by Zagat — the 15 hottest new beer bars.
The Ruin of Ruination
Just a few days ago, Stone announced that they were discontinuing their double IPA, Ruination. This led to one author attempting to explain why, and — if he’s right — why craft beer lovers should expect more classics to fall by the wayside in the future. Basically, his argument is that the popularity of rare, one-off, and limited release beers among craft brew fans is leaving a lot of classic beers on the shelf, not selling. As homebrewers, we can still brew a clone of Ruination, and some of their previously well-received, but now discontinued beers — Stone Pale Ale and Levitation — from clone recipes. But for the rest of craft beer lovers, they’re gone. Stone is introducing a replacement double IPA, however, Ruination 2.0.
Rare Beer Rumpus
Speaking of the problems associated with rare beers, a brewery just up the road from me — Jester King — announced the release of one of their special beers. However, problems ensued when the beer was released at the brewery and they had to crack down on people trying to skirt the rules to get their hand on more of the beer. (While I’m mentioning Jester King, there was another article about them this week, written by the brewer for Evil Twin.)
Desert Island Beers
Serendipitously, the same week, The Concourse asked its readers what beers they would drink if they could only choose three to drink the rest of their lives.
India Silly Ale
The number of IPA variants out there has gotten silly, argues Brian Yeager, in an article in All About Beer.
It’s fun to try out new beers. For a long time in the 1990s and early 2000s, I tried to sample something new nearly every time I was in a decent beer bar. Likewise, I frequently gravitated towards beers that were new to me when buying six-packs at the liquor store. I’ve wondered before if that approach could have had a negative affect on established beers.
As an example, in 2000, I was living in Bastrop, TX (where I live now). At the time, Austin (just up the road) was home to the Celis brewery. Celis had a few brands of beer of varying quality, but their Celis White was world class. An absolutely amazing beer. Then, late that year, it was gone. I was disappointed, because it was a great beer — but I also realized that I hadn’t bought any in a long time. Of course, there’s no way my personal buying habits were a major factor in their closing. However, if a large percentage of craft beer fans in my area were doing what I was doing, then plenty of beer drinkers were knowingly leaving a locally-brewed, world class beer on the shelf so that they could try yet another pale ale from Colorado, or wherever.
These days, I stick a lot more closely to my few favorite brands of beer. I try new stuff if I think there’s a good reason to — for example, I like to try out beers from new breweries — but I mostly like drinking beers that I am familiar with and enjoy. This isn’t out of any sense of trying to preserve classic beers. It’s mostly because I’ve learned that the odds of me being happy with a long-time favorite beer are far greater than if I pick something just because I’ve never tried it before. This seems especially true for a lot of one-off beers, and doubly especially collaboration beers. I can’t even think of the last “rare” (or rare-ish) release that I would ever consider buying for a second time, even if I could. (OK, actually I can. I did enjoy Jester King’s Gotlandsdricka. So much so that I got the clone recipe for it.) The way I see it, if the beer was any good, they’d brew it more than once.
Also, there was a time when a reasonably adventurous craft beer lover could have sampled a decent slice of the rare beers in the world. That time is gone. For me, the fascination of “I’ve tried that” has waned to the point where I don’t even care. I may be able to sample Brewery X’s Shiny New One-Time thing — but so what? I’ll never be able to get it again, and nobody I talk to will have tried it either. And, for me, the game of “you rattle off the long list of rare beers you’ve tried and I’ll respond with an entirely separate list of rare beers I’ve tried” has long gone stale. So, in short, I’d have to admit that I’m bored with most limited release beers. I still have fairly broad tastes in beer, but I’m sticking more and more to my favorites these days.
So what do you think? Is the fascination with rare beers having a negative impact on classic brands? Are those folks who chase after rare beers even beer fans? Or are they collectors who just happen to focus on beer? Would it be in their best interest for breweries shift their focus away from the “look at what I brewed this week” approach? Or is the ever-changing pool of limited release beers actually a good thing? Let me know what you think in the comments section.