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Bad beer trends.

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Beer in the US has improved a lot, but the diversification of beer culture has resulted in some disturbing trends.

Bad trend #1: too many choices. Bars with fewer than, say, 20 stools should be limited to 3, maybe 4 kinds of draft, maximum. Bars routinely offer a plethora of selections, almost all of which pass their prime before they can be served. This is unfair to conscientious brewers, and turns decent beer into flat old swill.

Bad trend #2: IPA. This stuff is swill at conception, and became obsolete with the advent of modern refrigeration. Brits don't drink it. Indians never did. It smells bad. There's a reason pilsner became the world's favorite beer in the 19th century.

Bad trend #3: Guinness Stout. It's a watery, dark brown industrial product that dates back to the 50s. It shares the name of the traditional stout that preceded it (and which is now known as Extra Stout), but it has none of the flavor, very little alcohol, nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide, and a slippery, slurpy texture that can only be achieved in a huge factory. How did this catch on?

Cheers!

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  1. #1 can be a problem.

    I would agree that there is a sort of IPA arms race, but I don't think it's a bad style of beer. It is a style that may not be ideal in some situations. I'm a devoted IPA drinker, but found on one hot day that Pilsner Urquell went down much easier.

    If you want to limit yourself to beers that have not become "obsolete", then no Cantillon, for example. That makes no sense.

    Draught Guinness may be a good introduction to more flavorful beer for those that usually confine themselves to light American lager. However, I don't think it does that, as people tend to drink it one day a year.

    1. point no. 1: it depends on the pub and the clientele. I agree that old beer is bad beer, and I might add that dirty lines are pretty bad also. But if the pub has consistent turnover and the beer doesn't sit there too long, old beer is not a problem. I know local pubs that have a lot more than 3-4 taps that flip them regularly.

      point no. 2: IPA is a good style if done properly and balanced. Some, especially DIPAs can be unbalanced, but not all. Pliny the Elder is absolutely sublime and it's a double IPA. Blind Pig is a very good regular IPA. Racer 5, Green Flash, Drakes IPA, Stone IPA, and many many others are good beers. not for all occasions, but good beers nonetheless

      point no. 3: there is no point to Guinness. It's just not a very good interpretation of the style and tends to be consumed by people who haven't ever tasted a good stout

      1. I like beer.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          The thread starter almost seems a bit fishy to me, as if it qualifies as stink bait to some degree. It would be interesting if the original poster came back to respond to the points people have made, but it strikes me that the post was hit and run.

          At any rate, confusing two entirely different styles of stout, and using some sort of 19th century argument to deride IPA, puts things in perspective.

          1. re: RB Hound

            Not all the information the OP provided is nonsense in and of itself. Hops are a preservative and Guinness does have very little alcohol and does use nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide. But he/she misuses the information to make some silly points. As I stated below I think OP's at the VERY beginning of gaining some beer knowledge but unfortunately believes he/she is further along than what they actually are.

        2. #1: draught beer is highly carbonated and pushed with CO2. I would imagine a keg would need to sit for months before going flat, and even then I do not believe it would go flat, though it certainly might taste stale.

          #2: this is as uninformed as saying that pilsner is a boring style based on Coors or Budweiser. There are countless IPAs on the market, with very different flavor profiles. To dismiss the entirety of the fastest-growing segment of craft beer makes no sense.

          #3: you're confusing dry Irish stout and foreign export stout - two completely different styles of beer.

          1. The first point isn't a bad one. I think in twenty years there will be fewer craft breweries; but all outstanding. However right now to me we are living in a sort of golden age of American craft brewing. And I'm enjoying every minute. My neighborhood has three craft beer bars. What we consider the worst one regularly carries Fullers London Pride. The second point is just silly. IPA became "obsolete with the advent of modern refrigeration"? So I guess so did cured meat and fish? IT smells bad? Which one? All of them? There's broad diversity in hop varietal and usage in IPAs so the smell will be different from beer to beer. And as for the third point why is low alcohol and the use of nitrogen a negative?
            To the OP I'll quote Jean-Luc Picard: "Oh, I envy you, Wesley Crusher... You're just at the beginning of the adventure."

            1. This isn't going where I expected. Here are my unsettling trends, since I love the proliferation of abundent beer types (especially IPAs)

              #1. Black lagers and black IPAs. For the love of God, make one type of beer! Mixing all the colors together in a palette and you just get brown. Same thing happens when you mix beer types. Besides, beer manufacturere seem to feel that a black IPA fills both categories of a porter and an IPA.

              #2. Sometimes I just like a stout, thick and rich and creamy, or a porter. I'd like to be able to get it straight, without chocolate, coffee or even rasberry thrown in to make it special.

              #3. Today is April 16. That means that it is Spring in this hemishere. Not summer. I'd like to be able to purchase a spring beer during the season that bears its name . I was told on Friday that Sierra Nevada's Ruthless Rye is a "spring beer " and the distribution season for spring is over. If a brewer is going to match their beers to the season, why can't we purchase them at the appropriate time?

              Rant over (the sound of someone folding up their soapbox and moving on with life)

              16 Replies
              1. re: thinks too much

                I think that there are some good black IPAs. When done well, you get a nice balance of roastiness and hops. Also, black lagers are a historically accurate style. Schwarzbiers have been made in Germany for a very long time and are nothing new.

                For a good spring seasonal, Anchor's Bock should be available right now.

                1. re: Josh

                  Thanks for some different perspective. I will reconsider my position, since I thought they were fusion mongrel beers.

                  I still think that a black IPA should not fill be that only IPA that a manufacturer makes.

                  1. re: thinks too much

                    I don't know of any brewer of black IPAs (I prefer the term India Dark Ale; it's more concise and less contradictory) who does not also produce IPA.

                    1. re: Kenji

                      Does anyone remember Wit Beer, a contract berewry out of NYC. They made a "black wit", sort of like a Jumbo shrimp....

                      1. re: MOREKASHA

                        Yes, I think the head honcho was named Andy Klein. Yes, here he is:

                        http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/21/bus...

                      2. re: Kenji

                        Pretty Things. They brewed an East India Porter and a KK that were described by many as Black IPAs. And they don't brew an IPA.

                      3. re: thinks too much

                        Both Otter Creek and Magic Hat produced black IPA's for the winter and no regular IPA's, which was a season that seemed to go from September until March. Those are the ones I can think of off the bat (and they are local to me)

                        1. re: thinks too much

                          Magic Hat has at least one IPA, their Blind Faith. I'm not familiar with the Otter Creek lineup.

                          1. re: Kenji

                            magic Hat changes their lineup seasonally, so while I could get Blind Faith for a brief time last summer, and my beloved Roxy Rolles in what passes for Fall, there has been no non-black IPA all winter. Now that that their new seasonal IPA, Vinyl, is out, I am hoping that they are some with that Howl (black lager) and Encore, marketed as "a sweet and malty IPA." A long winter without beer ing he lineup to suit my hoppy palate.

                            Otter creek's only IPA these days is a black one. Just verified on their website.

                      4. re: Josh

                        Dark lagers are also a tradition in Czechoslovakia.

                        1. re: Kenji

                          There is no Czechoslovakia;]

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            Sure its right near Yugoslavia and Prussia!

                          2. re: Kenji

                            To my mind the Czech brews don't get enough recognition for their greatness.

                            1. re: Kenji

                              I guess it is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia .....

                            2. re: Josh

                              Josh,
                              Sadly the Anchor Bock is near the end of its seasonal release. I was at the brewery last week helping to celebrate the anniversary of Liberty Ale and Mark Carpenter was surprised they still had it on. There might still be some around on shelves, I suppose, and I'd highly recommend it. it's a very tasty brew indeed.

                              1. re: chuckl

                                The Anchor Bock is tasty, I agree. If I sampled it blind, I'd never dream it was a bock, but the brew is agreeable on the palate.

                          3. To weigh in on the IPA comment, that style is huge out here in the Pacific Northwest. Many local microbrewers have embraced that as the signature style, and sometimes it has gotten out of hand with brewers trying to "outhop" each other with their offerings. When I've traveled around and lived in other parts of the country I did notice that IPAs from other regions (the East Coast mainly) paled in comparison to those available in the NW, even California. As for the entire style being "swill," when I started getting into beer I thought that IPAs in all forms were the foulest thing known to man. Slowly but surely I've come to prefer them above all others, but like I said, there are a lot of great ones out here so you have to be patient to wade through a sea of mediocre versions to find one you like.

                            As for the Black IPAs and White IPAs, I think those are a misnomer. The term "IPA" is being slapped onto dark lagers and stouts (hence the "black") and hefeweizens (white IPAs) just because there are extra hops added. IMO by definition these styles are not true to what is historically considered an IPA, but the phrase "Extra Hoppy Hefeweizen" doesn't have the same mystique as "White IPA."

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: d8200

                              I've never heard of a "white" IPA. American Wheat beers can be more pronounced (read obvious) in flavor than the Hefeweizen style they are based upon but white IPA being a hoppy Hefe is totally new to me. IPAs do not use wheat or the same yeast as Hefeweizen or American wheat beers. I agree however that a Black IPA is really just a hoppy dark ale.

                              1. re: Chinon00

                                Deschutes and Saranac, for starters, based on Belgian white.

                                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                  I tried a sample of the Saranac. I didn't like it, but I think someone could figure out a way to do a hoppy wit.

                                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                    I was thinking of Deschutes Chainbreaker when I posted that. I don't know how close the recipe is to a real Hefe or Witbier, that was just the flavor profile that came to mind when I first tried it. I didn't care for that particular beer at all, but it would be a good stepping stone for someone who likes those styles to try something a bit hoppier.

                                    1. re: d8200

                                      Ive never heard of a white IPA either. But from your description it seems like Three Floyds had already been doing that for over a decade with their sublime Gumballhead which is technically a hoppy wheat ale.

                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                        These white IPAs are based on the Belgian witbier style. If I weren't too lazy to look, I expect they'd have more alcohol than Gumballhead, in which case they would differ in at least two ways.

                                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                          My issue with the Saranac was the weird flavor combo of hops + phenol. The same thing that prevents me from enjoying most Belgian IPAs. Some brewers pull of this balancing act well, but it's definitely not the norm.

                              2. Flavored beers. In Canada we recently had the dubious honor of being the test market for "Coors Light Iced T".

                                Don't drink this, under any circumstances. Worst characteristics of Coors Light, mixed with overly perfumed, citrus, sweet iced tea.

                                The person who convinced them to market this should be fired.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bonefreakchef

                                  I just saw an ad for that... I think maybe Coors is losing market share with so many more people getting into real beer, so they think (some stereotype of non-beer drinking) women are their next great market??? It definitely strikes me as one of those products dreamed up by marketing. I always thought of Coors Light as beer for people who don't really drink or like beer at all, but want to basically appear sociable at BBQs or something.

                                2. Here is my list:

                                  Collaborations/one-offs/specials etc that lead to undeveloped recipes, high prices, poor concepts, lackluster execution, and mediocre beer. Collaborations are like an all-star jam - seems like more fun for the participants than what the audience is experiencing - do you really need 7 guitarists on stage? Yet the newbies that have been around craft beer for 10 minutes hold them in high praise due to their rareness, tradeability, and bold flavor (see below). The concept of connoiseurship is lost on these people.

                                  Use of flavoring agents - maybe I'm a bit of a traditionalist, but I think it takes more talent to develop interesting and unique flavor profiles from 4 ingredients than to add flavorings (whisky bbl, coffee, chocolate, fruit, other odd ingredients) pre or post fermentation. Sure you can get a maraschino tasting beer by adding maraschino cherries, but can you elicit those flavors out of a few basic ingredients like Bass did at one point?

                                  Thick, cloying, high abv beer that samples well when ice cold a few ozs. at a time at a tasting or beer fest, but not drinkable beyond half a pint once it warms a little. Suits craft beer marketing schemes more than it does the drinker.

                                  Ticking/trading has corrupted craft beer. Unrealistic prices due to buyer not caring about the experience it gives, only its trade value, or tick. When it costs you $15 to ship a bottle somewhere, do you really care if a 22 oz bottle costs $5 or $10 as long as you are getting the same value back in trade? But if a beer drinker wanted to enjoy it regular basis, they would go broke. See above re: one-offs.

                                  The beer press has lauded high end craft beer and become the lapdogs of craft breweries - unwillingness to talk about obvious bad beer is the same as lying by ommission - the craft beer industry no longer needs to be handled with kid gloves and would be stronger today if they hadn't in the first place.

                                  Too many high abv beers at beer bars for ridiculous prices. I hope everyone has a designated driver, because all its going to take is one high profile case to get lawmakers to start cracking down on abv.

                                  Overcrowding of single big bottle formats that are increasingly squeezing out shelf space for reasonable priced cases, 12 packs, and 6 packs of flagship type beers. For example, my local stores all seem to have room for 100's of stale bombers and 750's from Stone, Firestone Walker, Pizza Port/LA, Cascade, etc- yet few have room for a six pack of local Ipswich oatmeal stout - which is probably the best stout available in New England right now - and sells at the stores that do carry it.

                                  Beer geeks who think all this experimentation is pushing the boundries of craft beer - sorry - its all been pretty much done before by the english and the belgians - all this is doing is pushing the boundries of craft beer marketing.

                                  Too many under capitalized breweries jumping into the large bottle format game due to the high prices that they get - yet most of these (that I have tried) are inexperienced production brewers putting mostly mediocre product in a bottle and selling it due to one time buyers and an increasing new audience. What happens when craft growth rates slow - the bottom will drop out for these upstarts.

                                  Freshness issues still plague the craft beer industry.

                                  I'm sure I could think of more if I had the time...

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: LStaff

                                    Bravo!

                                    1. re: LStaff

                                      Great post LStaff. I agree with just about all of it except for the one-off/specials. True, a lot of those end up sucking, but once in awhile you come across one that is pretty great. It helps break up the monotony of enjoying your regular brew and you enjoy it more because you know it's only available temporarily. But I do agree that the bad ones I've had turned me off to some brewer's entire catalog.

                                      Beer is kind of like dating, some people try to find "the one" and then stick with it for the rest of their life. Others enjoy sampling a bit of everything and don't get too attached to one type.

                                      1. re: LStaff

                                        Devil's advocate:

                                        "Collaborations/one-offs/specials"

                                        Sometimes these work really well and result in excellent beer, just not often enough. Isabelle Proximus, for example, was a fantastic beer.

                                        ----------------------------

                                        "Use of flavoring agents - maybe I'm a bit of a traditionalist, but I think it takes more talent to develop interesting and unique flavor profiles from 4 ingredients"

                                        I don't know how that marks you as a traditionalist. It might mark you as an aficionado of reinheitsgebot, but the beer tradition pre-dates Germany, and the Belgians have been using ingredients outside of those 4 to make remarkable beer for hundreds of years. I agree it takes talent to make interesting beer from those 4 ingredients, but it also takes talent to make a great beer with more than 4 ingredients without producing a trainwreck of clashing flavors. Does it really take more talent to make Victory Prima Pils than Russian River Consecration?

                                        ----------------------------

                                        "Beer geeks who think all this experimentation is pushing the boundries of craft beer - sorry - its all been pretty much done before by the english and the belgians"

                                        While I agree, to an extent, that this goes on, it does a real disservice to innovative brewers who *have* done genuinely new things that aren't English or Belgian (or German, to complete your list). West Coast-style IPA, for example, was not done by the Europeans. It's also worth noting that the younger generation of brewers in these countries have been heavily influenced by American craft beer brewers. You now see Schneider & Sons, for example, releasing a really interesting hoppy beer using Nelson Sauvin hops, after their very successful collaboration with Garrett Oliver making Hopfenweisse (itself quite an interesting, boundary-pushing beer).

                                        Heck, look at Italy - where they are doing some really radical takes on beer styles, while citing the experimentation of American craft brewers as an influence.

                                        ----------------------------

                                        All that said, you do make some points that I agree with. The high-ABV arms race is dumb, and too many breweries do make really busy, poorly conceived trainwrecks that get automatically lauded by the Beer Advocate crowd who overlook smaller, well-made beers.

                                        Another thing you mention, the under-capitalized brewery, has an even worse corollary these days - which is the VC-funded mediocre brewery. We've got a couple of these now, and it's unreal to see shelf space in stores devoted to beer that is not very good just because they can now push out tons of product. The convergence of mass market hype of craft beer as a Good Thing (TM) combined with VC sharks looking to make a buck and starry-eyed newbie brewers hoping to be The Next Big Thing (TM) is a bona-fide problem, and one I hope crashes and burns before it causes too much damage to the industry.

                                        1. re: Josh

                                          Your last graf speaks to a concern I have regarding the incredible number of products starting to clog beer coolers in the stores. There really is nowhere to put all this beer, and soon the marginal sellers are going to get pushed out, and after that there will be a battle between the survivors.

                                          Back in the '90s we had the first shakeout, caused by overoptimistic plant expansions and the first wave of business types who were going to clean up in the craft-beer game. Now we have what I expect will be an unsustainable number of breweries fighting for retail space.

                                          If the tiny breweries can find a niche, perhaps selling draught beer to small numbers of accounts, it might work, but I fear that many will find it an awful lot of work on such a small scale.

                                          We shall see.

                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                            I agree with LStaff on most points, and Jim, you've nailed it as far as sustainability of all the breweries springing up like weeds.

                                            The 'craft' industry's PR machine likes to imply (both with subtlety _and_ the occasional sledgehammer) that the industry is competing with the big breweries. I think it has reached a point where that really isn't true since the crafties have their own audience, and the bigs have theirs (with some minor crossover on both sides).

                                            The reality is that the crafties will be in fierce competition with each other for shelf space (if they haven't begun to be already), especially as many are expanding into much wider regional or even national distribution. In the old days pre prohibition, drinking local products was "the thing" for the most part, both out of necessity and local pride. The vast majority of beer drinkers don't give a flip about "locally produced"...even the more educated beer palates and geeks are more interested in the next new thing. And sometimes, the current 'locally produced' stuff just isn't that good (we've got one or two heinous examples here in NJ that makes one wonder how they stay in business, especially when you consider how absurdly easy it is to make decent beer).

                                            The next 5-10 years are going to be VERY interesting for beer drinkers (and beer industry watchers) as the next shakeout comes.
                                            And it will come.

                                            1. re: The Professor

                                              I think of craft much like other products, like coffee and cheese, say, in that it has its own audience to a large extent. People who buy expensive coffee probably don't buy much Folger's, for example.

                                              I am guessing that a lot of small craft outfits will fade away quietly in the coming years. Perhaps some of the larger craft breweries will join together, at which time some lines might disappear. We've already seen Redhook/Widmer/Kona, Magic Hat/Pyramid, although no product lines have disappeared in these cases.

                                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                I think you've nailed it...that's how I see it trending as well. The bigger brewers that are taking the time to go back to their own roots and reintroduce long vanished quality beers from their own traditions will also play into it.
                                                As far as the 'craft' segment goes, the stronger and more skilled ones will survive and thrive. There will be some unfortunate and even tragic casualties, I'm sure (as there were in the last shakeout) but in the big picture, I'm guessing that a lot of them won't really be missed.

                                                1. re: The Professor

                                                  Right, Catamount was a tough loss, for example.

                                                  The big brewers are starting to figure out how to play, too. Blue Moon is doing really well for MillerCoors. ABI seems to be leaving Goose Island alone now that they own it, providing resources and keeping hands off. Good move.

                                              2. re: The Professor

                                                I think it depends where you are. There's definitely a big push here to drink locally produced stuff.

                                                1. re: Josh

                                                  This is true in many areas.

                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                    That's good to hear. Maybe that trend will grow and spread, who knows?
                                                    Overall though, I'm not seeing brand loyalty or even local loyalty as a major factor in the beer biz these days.

                                                    When I buy beer (which is rarely anymore, eschewing it for home made stuff) I do try at least to get something made regionally to where I am: really, most of the locally produced stuff around here (in NJ) is unfortunately just not very good and/or not worth the inflated prices some of them sell for.

                                                    1. re: The Professor

                                                      It probably also depends on the circles you travel in. The average citizen here probably doesn't care that much. But there's a pretty solid demo of younger people who are very interested in supporting local businesses of all kinds.

                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                        Josh, I'm not sure where you are, but the local angle is pretty powerful in the Bay Area. I'm also noticing a trend of people around here beginning at the home brew level, graduating to a bit of a larger production capacity as a nano brew, and then either contract brewing at a larger production facility or opening a small brewery or brew pub. Some of the results have been spectacular.

                                            2. re: LStaff

                                              "Use of flavoring agents - maybe I'm a bit of a traditionalist, but I think it takes more talent to develop interesting and unique flavor profiles from 4 ingredients than to add flavorings (whisky bbl, coffee, chocolate, fruit, other odd ingredients) pre or post fermentation."

                                              Belgians have been using adjuncts forever. Other than that nice post.

                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                I'm with you on...well, all of that.

                                                Ipswich Oatmeal Stout is my favorite New England beer, if not my favorite beer full stop.

                                                1. re: LStaff

                                                  LStaff, your old beer guy curmudgeonly-ness is showing. As mine must be since I find I largely agree with most of your points. The only thing Id say is that the English and the Belgians have not really done what the Americans have done in the past 10 years of extreme beer envelope pushing experimentation. Theyve done other stuff certainly. But Americans have certainly established a fundamentally American approach to brewing in recent years that even the "traditionalists" over seas have been influenced by (as Josh notes as well). But to your point, whatever it is that the Americans have done has been done enough BY the Americans. Which I think is your point anyway, just not that its a repeat of the past but that its the present trends ad nauseam.

                                                  Also, as much as we like to malign the poor beer press for being babbling mouth pieces for the very things you are griping about (star struckness, promotion of silly beer, etc.) some have been speaking out (writing out) about how things have gotten a bit over the top and supporting the resurgence of session beer. Not all of them of course but enough that I notice it now whenever I read over a blog or pick up an industry mag or Brewing News even.

                                                  But on the whole, good points sir and thanks for speaking for many of us.

                                                  1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                    The beer press problem is definitely real, and it mirrors exactly what has happened in the mainstream press. Rather than actual journalists, you instead have stenographers who simply repeat what they're told by brewers or brewery owners. What's more important to these guys is having access to important people. I would imagine, too, that a lot of the people writing about beer have backgrounds as amateurs (bloggers, for example) vs. solid journalistic training.

                                                    Obviously not everyone matches this description, but far too much beer press these days is simple cheerleading of the industry.

                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                      I guess my problem is that for the longest time I didnt see any separation or personality in "beer journalism". It was simple filler with the purpose of alerting industry folks and craft beer aficionados of new releases and various goings on in the industry. But in the past 4 or 5 years or so Ive noticed a number of folks who have set themselves above that to the point of approaching beer (and craft beer in specific) in a more complete and interesting way that includes focusing on current issues, negative aspects and controversy and not simply repeating the brewer's own press releases. Guys like Lew Bryson and Andy Crouch spring to mind. And maybe its because those guys are largely the only beer stuff I read now (other than an occasional Brewing News which I dont expect too much from) it seems like things have gotten better. But maybe not.

                                                2. 4 packs!