Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

January 12, 2011

Beer Diary:

Simply Good

Crazy new concoctions are great, but so are strong-but-steady stalwarts.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
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I’ve noticed a lot of backlash from craft brewers and beer pundits (also known as “bloggers”) against the beer geek, nerd, dweeb contingent over their constant clamoring for the next innovative new beer instead of being happy with a brewery’s “normal” lineup.

This strikes me as a bit … um … I guess I don’t know the word. Shortsighted? No, that’s not it. Capricious? Not quite sure what that means …. Arrogant? Maybe. It’s not quite biting the hand that feeds you, but it’s close to growling at the dude that just handed you a steak. And it might be the pot calling the kettle black (although I really don’t understand that saying) since the vast majority (but not all, mind you) of craft brewers, when asked in interviews why they decided to get into brewing, say something along the lines of, “I just wanted something different from what was out there.” So now that they’ve got their brewery and—like every other craft brewer on the planet—they’re peddling a Cascade-laden pale ale (or maybe some of them went all crazy and did a “British-style” version), now they can look down their noses at those goddamn beer dorks who just want something different from what’s out there. Oh, wait. Hypocritical. That’s the word I was looking for.

Most of the time the lion’s share of my fridge space is taken up by my favorite brewery’s stalwarts and flagship brands.
Sorry, that comes across a bit harsh, and I shouldn’t be that hard on craft brewers, or lump all brewers together like that (the pundits, well, they’ve got thick enough skin to take it), because I don’t consider myself one of the ravenous masses baying incessantly for newer, bigger, crazier beers. I’ll admit I love trying said beers, and it’s exciting to walk into the brew pub or beer store and see a double maple syrup crystal rye sour coffee stout IPA on the chalkboard or cooler shelves, and even though my beer fridge and beer cellar has more than a few of these special one-offs crammed into the nooks and crannies, most of the time the lion’s share of my fridge space is taken up by my favorite brewery’s stalwarts and flagship brands. Because, let’s face it, not even Nigel can drink nothing but double IPAs for the rest of his life. (Although, to be honest, if it was Three Floyds Dreadnaught, I might be able to …) That, and there’s usually a pretty good reason why such brews are their makers’ stalwarts and flagships: because they’re solid, drinkable, damn fine beers.

For instance, it’s always a good idea to keep a supply of good pale ales at hand, right? They’re easy drinking, they’re versatile when it comes to food, and they appeal to a wide palate. But why bother with a dime-a-dozen Sierra Nevada clone? Which is why I, of course, keep a stock of Three Floyds Alpha King in the fridge whenever I can. Sure, it’s more bitter than a lot of IPAs, but that just serves to scare the shit out of little kids and hop diaper wearers.

Sure, Alpha King is more bitter than a lot of IPAs, but that just serves to scare the shit out of little kids and hop diaper wearers.
And it pays to have a nice altbier/amber ale in the basement as well. Like pale ales, they’re beers you can enjoy in quantity without having to lie down on the floor afterward, and they go great with lots of different foodstuffs. Right now, when I can find it, my favorite is O’so Rusty Red, a yeasty, yummy amber that I can’t seem to get enough of. But the Midwest is loaded with great ambers. Capital Wisconsin Amber, Bell’s Amber, Millstream Schild Brau, Dark Horse Amber, the list goes on and on.

Then there are some brews that are so good—while still being in a brewer’s “regular” lineup—that they’ve earned a permanent place on the beer shelf despite their otherwise “overpowering” qualities. Founders Breakfast Stout always has a space reserved up on top, where the stubby bottles fit just right. The aforementioned Dreadnaught (fits in the fridge door, right next to the Aventinus). When I can snag some, Surly Furious. I also keep a few cans of Capital Supper Club around for visitors who equate craft brews with “dark beer.”

The point is, Midwest craft brewers are making good beer, so good that they’re worth going back to time and time again. But those crazy one-offs and bizarre big concoctions are a lot of fun, so, please, craft brewers, keep ’em coming, if you are so inclined—as long as they don’t displace the solid, signature brews that got you here in the first place. Then again, maybe you feel like you can sit on your laurels while the rest of the beer world moves forward. That’s fine, too—I’ll keep drinking your beer. Just don’t blame me for whatever consequences ensue.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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