It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of beers killed by their fans.
Craft beer fans are a passionate bunch. We know what we like and we seek it out. When we hear of something new that sounds promising we look to get some as quickly as we can. We look to share our finds with others, hoping at least in part, to enjoy possible reciprocation in the future.
With such passion evident, how is it that craft beer nerds managed to kill good beer? Easy- the lure of the new, bigger and bolder allowed many of us to ignore the dependable, familiar and classic. The blood is on our hands, whether we choose to admit it to ourselves or not.
This month Stone Brewing announced the retirement of three of their classic beers.
Why the deaths of these three beers? There is no nice way to say it – craft beer fans killed them. The pursuit of the bigger, bolder and newer that many beer fans undertake has a terrible consequence. Many are guilty of this, and the evidence is everywhere. (Below photos were pulled from Google images)
The average beer drinker undergoes a natural progression in preferences and tolerance as they learn to appreciate beer. This progress typically starts with lighter and lower alcohol brews to those that are bigger in flavour, alcohol and bitterness. Along the way are some beers types that don’t fit in to this spectrum quite as well (sours, fruit/vegetable beers, and smoked beers come to mind in this regard).
With this natural progression leading to bigger and bolder, how is the average beer harmed?
Its simple really. While developing this appreciation for craft beer, many don’t tend to step backwards very much or very far. When someone begins enjoying big hoppy beers, or bourbon barrel aged goodies for example, they tend to forget about the perfectly good simple beers that they’ve left behind.
Now this certainly isn’t the case for everyone, but it is a generalization that is a model that we can see working in the craft beer world. An old world pilsner is a whole different beer compared to an IPA brewed with some of the amazing hops found Down Under the equator, and many tend to jump aboard the flavour train enjoying the big, bold and new.
With all this pessimism now laid out, there is a silver lining that I first learned in the world of wine that lends itself just as well to the world of beer. With experience, everything old is new again.
With experience comes the desire and opportunity to re-explore the previously discovered and abandoned. After numerous big, high alcohol, and intensely flavoured beers, one often begins to examine alternatives. Many a craft fan only truly begin to appreciate simpler beer styles after having run the table.
It is at this point that true appreciation of craft beer really begins. We all have guilty pleasure beers or beer styles, that we revisit for familiarity but learning to appreciate simpler beer styles goes beyond that.
Beers that were once boring, when explored with a more developed (some would say “mature or experienced” instead) are suddenly far more interesting. Suddenly we are able to detect subtlety and nuance as opposed to having the taste-buds overwhelmed and the brain battered by high alcohol. A simple English bitter becomes a thing of beauty, and a well made fruit beer isn’t a beginner beer anymore. As we truly advance, we are able to go backwards as smell the roses to experience what we have missed.
So how does all of this lead to the death of good beer? The beers in question that our friends at Stone have chosen to retire are being killed off because they have not been selling well enough to warrant keeping them in full rotation. This is a trend that we will see continuing, and one that we have seen here in our local beer scene as well.
The developing craft beer fan and the culture that goes with it are doing a poor job of staying true to the tried and true classics. The beers that drew many to the culture of craft have been forgotten by many, and thus sent unceremoniously to theirs deaths.
But there is hope. As North American craft beer culture matures, one would hope that more folks will come full circle to fully appreciate the perfectly good “normal” beers that we all started out with.
Who knows, maybe for some of these beers death isn’t final. Perhaps resurrection is possible.
Anyone want a Zombie Apocalypse Stone Levitation? Nah, they’d probably just age it in wood. 🙁