Quantity vs quality

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greenacarina

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Ok...so maybe it's just me...maybe it's the area I'm in (washington state)...but we have a crapload of microbreweries popping up like mushrooms.
In general I think this is good...I love variety.
As I explore some of these new places I am noticing the beer is often unremarkable (yep...tastes like a brown ale...meets the criteria in the BJCP) and sometimes just plain bad!
I know everyone's tastes are different...and that's a good thing...but I'm talking bad enough where I get a flight of tasters and can't bring myself to order a pint of anything.
Now here's the kicker...I was in a place with said bad beer...choking down the remains of my tasters (i hate to waste)...and a group of young 20 somethings come in. They get a flight, taste a couple of these sour beers (not purposely "sour" mind you...like infection sour)...exclaim something about craft beer and how great it was.
I am left wondering...does it even matter that the beer is any good???
As long as you have all the trappings of "craft-beer-ness" and it doesn't taste like Bud Light...are there enough people out there willing to drink crappy beer?
Ok, sorry...not trying to sound like a rant.
I am not a beer snob by any means, but i have to wonder...in this time of massive saturation of the beer market, are the poor to mediocre beers going to prosper simply due to image or marketing?
Has anyone else experienced this?
Do i just need to go back to PBR and mind my own business??

Chris
 

swampbrewcrew

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I️ see it even here in Mississippi where the beer market pails in comparison. “Craft” is becoming the new “Premium”. Slap the label on the side and sell it at a higher price and people will perceive quality.
 

triethylborane

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first there was "true beer"

then there was "real beer"

now there is "craft-beer-ness"

All these new beer movements, wew lad
 

Smellyglove

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You'll get your answer if you see the place is still alive after two years. Maybe poorly crafted "craft beer" is the new american light lager?

I live in Norway, it's a small country, like one of your states.. We have some excellent craft breweries, and a lot of small mediocre to sub-mediocre (bad) ones. I know what you mean. They still live. But these things takes a few years is my impression.

But still. It's also about local connections. There's one brewery I know, which turn out som absolutely totally boring and not very well crafted beers, and without consistency. They still live, and have for several years, because locals without a refined or critical palate support them. And, it's local. Support your locals, isn't that the game?
 

z-bob

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One of the older microbreweries here has mostly terrible beers. Every once in awhile they brew a good one (their stouts are usually okay.) Their parking lot is full all the time.

There is no accounting for taste (including mine.)
 

MaxStout

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I see what the OP is getting at here. The craft brew business has gone through a sort of "gold rush" the last several years. Many people are jumping into it, with varied levels of quality and success. The quality of these breweries falls into a typical bell curve. There will be a few really stellar breweries and a few really bad ones, and in the middle, a lot of "just ok" ones. My rule for hitting craft breweries: I'll try any of them once. But if they don't have at least a couple really excellent year-round beers, I probably won't be back. There's just too many for me to choose from. I'm not going to pay $5-6 a pint for middling beer.
 

applescrap

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Here in colorado the beer is generally good but I dont drink at many of the new breweries popping up. I would bet many have average beers. I think you are right that they can, do, and will prosper with crappy beer. Often they provide a place to meet with friends and if the beer isnt spit out bad, people are happy to get a burger and beer with some chums. These small breweries popping up in ideal locations are doing massive business regardless of quality.
 
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greenacarina

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first there was "true beer"

then there was "real beer"

now there is "craft-beer-ness"

All these new beer movements, wew lad
Sorry, i have really been taking issue with the term "craft beer" lately. It reminds me too much of man buns, hipsters, pumpkin spice and ironic trucker hats...you get the idea. It's my own ridiculous issue...i will get therapy for it 😛
 

BrianDorry55

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We've had massive growth in Florida and especially here in the Tampa area. I see a little of what you're talking about but we also have a lot of really good breweries that have popped up. Granted, many of them have grown out of the Cigar City family tree...so those folks were brought up the right way. I also think it depends on what you're going for. If you just want to have "the local brewery" and operate essentially as a bar that makes its own beer...and you can survive in that area with "meh" beer...then so be it...that won't be the case in alot of markets. People are looking for different things though. Our local brewery has a great space and atmosphere and is just really well run...so alot of people go there and alot of them don't know squat about good beer.
 

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It's not just your area, southern California is full of new pubs that serve 10 taps of over-hopped vomit and maybe a stout. They use the term "IPA" as a sales tool, but they are nowhere close to an IPA. The new fad here is who can put the most hops into every style of beer, before someone's esophagus melts and they leave the pub in an ambulance. There is one joint in my town (and i'm not even joking here) you can be outside and 15 feet from the front door and smell the nastiest skank of cheap hops oozing from the door. The people inside are proud as heck that they are sitting in there drinking the newest quadruple IPA with some name like "skid mark ale" or "alien phlem"

Craft beer is simply envouge. and the word "craft" means nothing. The bottom line is simple. If youngsters and hipsters want it and will drink it, make it, and smile all the way to the bank.

Meanwhile, local brew shops are closing nearly as fast as pubs are opening.
 
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greenacarina

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It's not just your area, southern California is full of new pubs that serve 10 taps of over-hopped vomit and maybe a stout. They use the term "IPA" as a sales tool, but they are nowhere close to an IPA. The new fad here is who can put the most hops into every style of beer, before someone's esophagus melts and they leave the pub in an ambulance. There is one joint in my town (and i'm not even joking here) you can be outside and 15 feet from the front door and smell the nastiest skank of cheap hops oozing from the door. The people inside are proud as heck that they are sitting in there drinking the newest quadruple IPA with some name like "skid mark ale" or "alien phlem"

Craft beer is simply envouge. and the word "craft" means nothing. The bottom line is simple. If youngsters and hipsters want it and will drink it, make it, and smile all the way to the bank.

Meanwhile, local brew shops are closing nearly as fast as pubs are opening.
Yes to all of this!
I have been sick of disgusting IPA's for years now. This area is oversaturated with them big time!!
Glad i am not alone in my disenchantment...
 

PADave

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Same thing going on in the Pittsburgh area. Lots of breweries opening, some making good beer, some not so much. I'm interested to see which ones will still be around in 5-10 years.
 

stz

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I don't use the word craft. People are either unhappy they are called it or unhappy they aren't called it. Now the marketing departments have hold it has ceased to hold any meaning. What did it ever mean and what defined it anyway? People doing things the hard way with less money and equipment than others? Can you have a successful business and still be considered craft? Does popularity cause it to evaporate? We've got giant maltsters here pushing their 'craft brew range' where are previously it was just the list of malts. Industry led institutions offering 'craft' seminars. The list of dry yeasts available is now 'our craft yeast range'.

As others have said time will show how many of these businesses have a successful niche to occupy. It doesn't mean their beer is great or good, it just shows that they are successful businesses. New breweries open here constantly. At a recent sensory panel for the institute of brewing and distilling we sampled 12 local beers. Only 4 were brewed without obvious flaws/faults. 2 of those were what I'd consider good beer, 2 were very dull. The rest were mixed bags of butyric, oxidised, metallic, sulphurous faults with some full of chunks of sediment.
 

mongoose33

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I feel your pain, Greenacarina. A local guy here is expanding, putting in a 15-barrel brewery. Exciting for us, we don't have anything like that locally.

I know the brewmaster. He and I have different ideas as to what good beer is. He's had a number of my brews, and I find his BJCP approach to assessing them to be silly. He has to--HAS TO--try to put them in a style and then decide how closely they approximate the parameters of that style.

I have a Rye beer that doesn't fit any style. It's an ale, and I'm not the only one who thinks it's a good beer. But he can't find a style to put it in, so he's confused.

I think he's totally and utterly missing the point. I want to know, is my beer good? Would you have another? He'll come back with comments like "undercarbonated for the style" when in fact, I think he overcarbonates his beer. I'm not trying to win a competition, I'm trying to make beer I relish, and others relish as well. His approach may be style appropriate but it's NOT better.

I'm about done with judging. I have enough positive feedback from others--positive feedback where they want another, and another, and not just because it's sometimes free--that I believe my beers are doing very well. No off flavors. Clean. Tasty. I'll put them in a competition (local) and the winner has off flavors! Extract twang, sour aftertaste--makes me wonder whether the judges have come to expect those flavors and then reward them.

All that ranting aside, people like what they like. But man, sometimes I cannot understand the focus on hitting a style exactly. I know, I know, it's about the only way to have a competition with possibly objective standards, but even then, judges are all over the place.
 

stz

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I'm about done with judging. I have enough positive feedback from others--positive feedback where they want another, and another, and not just because it's sometimes free--that I believe my beers are doing very well.
That is all that matters man. Don't put your stuff into competition if you don't like the system. Objective judging is very hard without objective measures against which to judge beers against. If I'm asked to assess something using my palette I'm supposed to use it as a professional sensory tool. Whether I subjectively like or dislike something comes pretty far down the scale though it is there. Make the beer you like making and drinking, it is one of the pleasures of home brewing and part of the rich diversity of beer.
 

SoCal-Doug

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For the most part, I've stopped going to the brew pubs. If I want to try something new or different, i'll look up the style and ratings then hit the bottle shops in the area (Total Wine, who has a huge selection of beers, or BevMo, etc). Each bottle may be a couple bucks more, but the hit-to-miss ratio is much better. I find myself in the imported section much more than the local "craft" section, unless a local brew has recommendations by people that I trust.

When i'm thinking about brewing something I haven't before, I like to evaluate an original style first. Small brew pubs tend to over-hop, over-ABV, and over-flavor the base styles with anything they can find. A good example is Saison's. If you have only had a heavy brett raspberry sage and old gym sock infused version, that was mashed at 158F, with a ton of cane sugar added bringing the ABV to 9 or 10, but have never tried Dupont, you have no clue what it's supposed to be. I witness many people trying something locally then say "yuck, i'll never try a Saison again, they are nasty" without any idea that what they tried was probably not a Saison.

Some stouts and porters are the same way. Noob's are sometimes afraid of things that dark. Their buddy takes them to a brewpub and orders a coffee ginger with burnt toenails 98 IBU stout and the victim goes into convulsions and comes close to an involuntary personal protein spill, with the first sip. Never again to consider a stout a viable beer.

One little gold mine I recently discovered is a place called "Rock-N-Brews". A bar and grill owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the band Kiss. Great food, huge portions, fair prices and a mega huge selection of beer styles from all over the world. There must be 75 taps and Lord knows how many different bottles. They are kinda new still, but i'm hoping their bean counters don't realize the trends and replace 74 of those taps with IPA's.

All that being said, there are two things that we all have to consider. (1) A brew pub needs to make money, therefore brewing what sells, no matter who likes it, how good it is, or if it is to style. (2) Everyone's tastes are different. Follow your own path. Drink what you like and ignore the rest.
 

PADave

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No matter how it all plays out, I'd still rather see people drinking mediocre local brews over macros. I know several people who a couple years ago wouldn't touch a beer with flavor. Now, mostly because of going to local brewpubs, they have become craft beer drinkers.
 

processhead

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Why would anyone think craft breweries would be different than any other business?
There will always be the ok, the crappy and a few really exceptional brew pubs.
As the drinking public becomes more experienced and discerning, the quality bar will be raised ever higher as expectations for a quality beer experience goes up.
 

SoCal-Doug

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No matter how it all plays out, I'd still rather see people drinking mediocre local brews over macros. I know several people who a couple years ago wouldn't touch a beer with flavor. Now, mostly because of going to local brewpubs, they have become craft beer drinkers.
^^^ +10

Very true. I have a neighbor who in 15 years I've never seen him drink anything but coors light. Recently, I cant keep him away from my saison and irish red kegs. He keeps offering to buy the stuff to make more. This type of public awareness and learning is a wonderful thing.
 

Gameface

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If the beers are actually bad I don't think the place will stay open long. People can sit there drinking a beer and convince them self that they should like it because it's a cool craft beer and cool people like that stuff and they are cool so they like it. But eventually people realize the emperor has no clothes and they aren't really craving that beer, they drink it out of an obligation to look and feel cool.

But really, beer doesn't need to be special to be good. It isn't hard to make solid beer. It's this idea that some beer is next-level awesome that drives all the worst beer trends. Budweiser is good beer. A fairly standard pale ale is good beer. Trying to make it amazing is where things go off the rails.

I'll take a simple beer made well any day of the week. It doesn't have to blow my mind with how special it is, it just needs to be beer.
 

MaxStout

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Some people get wrapped up in the image of craft beer, displaying a pretentiousness about it. It's the sort of behavior that's mocked in Budweiser commercials (and rightly so). Others just want better beer.

I'm in the latter camp. It can be a simple or complex beer. Either way, all I ask it that the beer is well-executed. It can be a simple wheat beer, or a complex Belgian quad. I like them both for what they are, not what others may think of me drinking them.

Some people need to get over themselves.
 

MaryB

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I had someone who judged in a beer contest refuse to drink my strong bitter because it was cloudy... he claimed it was infected without even taking a taste. I shrugged and handed him an Old Milwaukee I keep in the fridge for people who think all homebrew is bad.

I feel your pain, Greenacarina. A local guy here is expanding, putting in a 15-barrel brewery. Exciting for us, we don't have anything like that locally.

I know the brewmaster. He and I have different ideas as to what good beer is. He's had a number of my brews, and I find his BJCP approach to assessing them to be silly. He has to--HAS TO--try to put them in a style and then decide how closely they approximate the parameters of that style.

I have a Rye beer that doesn't fit any style. It's an ale, and I'm not the only one who thinks it's a good beer. But he can't find a style to put it in, so he's confused.

I think he's totally and utterly missing the point. I want to know, is my beer good? Would you have another? He'll come back with comments like "undercarbonated for the style" when in fact, I think he overcarbonates his beer. I'm not trying to win a competition, I'm trying to make beer I relish, and others relish as well. His approach may be style appropriate but it's NOT better.

I'm about done with judging. I have enough positive feedback from others--positive feedback where they want another, and another, and not just because it's sometimes free--that I believe my beers are doing very well. No off flavors. Clean. Tasty. I'll put them in a competition (local) and the winner has off flavors! Extract twang, sour aftertaste--makes me wonder whether the judges have come to expect those flavors and then reward them.

All that ranting aside, people like what they like. But man, sometimes I cannot understand the focus on hitting a style exactly. I know, I know, it's about the only way to have a competition with possibly objective standards, but even then, judges are all over the place.
 

betarhoalphadelta

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People keep trying to say craft beer isn't a bubble.

IMHO, when poor quality products succeed without any correction from the market, that's bubble behavior. Just like in the late 90's when anything "dot com" could invest hordes of investors and crazy valuations despite not having a viable business plan, market strategy, revenue, or profit. Just like in the mid aughts when everyone and their mother was flipping houses for easy money because the market just goes up and up.

Eventually when the trendiness of craft beer starts to ebb, the low-quality breweries will either fix their product or they'll go out of business, as they should.
 

MaxStout

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People keep trying to say craft beer isn't a bubble.

IMHO, when poor quality products succeed without any correction from the market, that's bubble behavior. Just like in the late 90's when anything "dot com" could invest hordes of investors and crazy valuations despite not having a viable business plan, market strategy, revenue, or profit. Just like in the mid aughts when everyone and their mother was flipping houses for easy money because the market just goes up and up.

Eventually when the trendiness of craft beer starts to ebb, the low-quality breweries will either fix their product or they'll go out of business, as they should.
Like moths to a flame.
 

SoCal-Doug

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Yes to all of this!
I have been sick of disgusting IPA's for years now. This area is oversaturated with them big time!!
Glad i am not alone in my disenchantment...
Was just browsing a tap list for a place in Riverside, California... I hope this is a typo...

"Best Coast IPA 130 IBU 6.5% ABV Brilliant grapefruit, tropical fruit and pine aromatics followed by dank stonefruit, citrus and pine resin flavors with a dry, clean finish"

I'm hoisting the caca de toro flag. At 130 IBU, you can't tell me that you can detect anything like grapefruit or tropical fruit or a clean dry finish. Your esophagus just sustained 3rd degree burns and your taste buds are coated with something resembling gasoline, and have shut down in revolt.

I'll bet it's their best seller. Just like vomit flavored jelly belly's and sugar free haribo's, people will buy it just to see if they can survive.
 

jcav

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One little gold mine I recently discovered is a place called "Rock-N-Brews". A bar and grill owned by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the band Kiss. Great food, huge portions, fair prices and a mega huge selection of beer styles from all over the world. There must be 75 taps and Lord knows how many different bottles.
I went to "Rock-N-Brews" in Orlando awhile ago. I agree with you Doug, the food was great and so was the beer selection. They were packed and there was a line out the door the day I was there.

John
 

PADave

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Was just browsing a tap list for a place in Riverside, California... I hope this is a typo...

"Best Coast IPA 130 IBU 6.5% ABV Brilliant grapefruit, tropical fruit and pine aromatics followed by dank stonefruit, citrus and pine resin flavors with a dry, clean finish"

I'm hoisting the caca de toro flag. At 130 IBU, you can't tell me that you can detect anything like grapefruit or tropical fruit or a clean dry finish. Your esophagus just sustained 3rd degree burns and your taste buds are coated with something resembling gasoline, and have shut down in revolt.

I'll bet it's their best seller. Just like vomit flavored jelly belly's and sugar free haribo's, people will buy it just to see if they can survive.
Not everyone is as sensitive to hops as you make it out to be. Just like hot foods, some people can't take a little red pepper, and others can eat ghost peppers like nothing. If people are buying it, might as well make it. I feel the same way about Bud, couldn't pay me to drink it, but plenty of people do. Different strokes for different folks.
 

Miraculix

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I feel your pain, Greenacarina. A local guy here is expanding, putting in a 15-barrel brewery. Exciting for us, we don't have anything like that locally.

I know the brewmaster. He and I have different ideas as to what good beer is. He's had a number of my brews, and I find his BJCP approach to assessing them to be silly. He has to--HAS TO--try to put them in a style and then decide how closely they approximate the parameters of that style.

I have a Rye beer that doesn't fit any style. It's an ale, and I'm not the only one who thinks it's a good beer. But he can't find a style to put it in, so he's confused.

I think he's totally and utterly missing the point. I want to know, is my beer good? Would you have another? He'll come back with comments like "undercarbonated for the style" when in fact, I think he overcarbonates his beer. I'm not trying to win a competition, I'm trying to make beer I relish, and others relish as well. His approach may be style appropriate but it's NOT better.

I'm about done with judging. I have enough positive feedback from others--positive feedback where they want another, and another, and not just because it's sometimes free--that I believe my beers are doing very well. No off flavors. Clean. Tasty. I'll put them in a competition (local) and the winner has off flavors! Extract twang, sour aftertaste--makes me wonder whether the judges have come to expect those flavors and then reward them.

All that ranting aside, people like what they like. But man, sometimes I cannot understand the focus on hitting a style exactly. I know, I know, it's about the only way to have a competition with possibly objective standards, but even then, judges are all over the place.
I also never got this... Why tf should I try to match expectations which were set up by somebody I do not even know? I brew to match my friends and my own taste, I do not give a single something if this matches a style or not.

A style might be a good starting point to explore possibilities, brew one beer according to style, find out what the ingredients and the process does to the taste of it and then alternate to your own liking. But that's really it!

I am going to brew a mild with 20% flaked barley and Belgian yeast next week. You know why? Because I can and because I think I might like it very much and I hope my friends do to.
 

madscientist451

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Now here's the kicker...I was in a place with said bad beer...choking down the remains of my tasters (i hate to waste)...and a group of young 20 somethings come in. They get a flight, taste a couple of these sour beers (not purposely "sour" mind you...like infection sour)...exclaim something about craft beer and how great it was.
I am left wondering...does it even matter that the beer is any good???

I am not a beer snob by any means, but i have to wonder...in this time of massive saturation of the beer market, are the poor to mediocre beers going to prosper simply due to image or marketing?
Has anyone else experienced this?
Do i just need to go back to PBR and mind my own business??

Chris
I hate to break the news to you, but your post indicates that you are a beer snob.
You know more about how good the beer tastes than the brewer or the other patrons at the pub and then express that sentiment.
If you like PBR, that's cool, guzzle away. If people didn't like it, they wouldn't make it.
Ok, I've been at a brew pub myself with a row of tasters I thought were not all that great. But I chalk that up to being a homebrewer as well as someone who has sought out above average beers and knows what they are like.
I can brew mediocre beer all day long, (if I choose to) so why would I want to pay for it unless I was hanging with a sexy blonde at the bar? (Then it would be an "investment")
But most drinkers aren't homebrewers. They don't really know all that much about beer except what they like and don't like. Bud light is still the #1 beer in the US with almost 30% of the market with regular Bud #2 at 12% and Coors light third at less than 10%.
So its obvious that mediocre beers DO prosper due to image and marketing. But now that's ME sounding like a beer snob, because I just called the top selling beers mediocre. Oh well, time to pull a pint of homebrew. :mug:
 

balrog

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Was just browsing a tap list for a place in Riverside, California... I hope this is a typo...

"Best Coast IPA 130 IBU 6.5% ABV Brilliant grapefruit, tropical fruit and pine aromatics followed by dank stonefruit, citrus and pine resin flavors with a dry, clean finish"

I'm hoisting the caca de toro flag. At 130 IBU, you can't tell me that you can detect anything like grapefruit or tropical fruit or a clean dry finish. Your esophagus just sustained 3rd degree burns and your taste buds are coated with something resembling gasoline, and have shut down in revolt.

I'll bet it's their best seller. Just like vomit flavored jelly belly's and sugar free haribo's, people will buy it just to see if they can survive.
"I gotta tell you, that smells like gasoline...and not in a good way"
 

SoCal-Doug

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Don't take me too seriously. It's all in fun :)

I like IPA's to a point (within reason, and with proper selection of hops and flavors). Goose island makes a fairly good one. But 150 IBU's of skunk weed just isn't my thing.
 

betarhoalphadelta

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Now here's the kicker...I was in a place with said bad beer...choking down the remains of my tasters (i hate to waste)...and a group of young 20 somethings come in. They get a flight, taste a couple of these sour beers (not purposely "sour" mind you...like infection sour)...exclaim something about craft beer and how great it was.
I am left wondering...does it even matter that the beer is any good???
As long as you have all the trappings of "craft-beer-ness" and it doesn't taste like Bud Light...are there enough people out there willing to drink crappy beer?
Ok, sorry...not trying to sound like a rant.
I am not a beer snob by any means, but i have to wonder...in this time of massive saturation of the beer market, are the poor to mediocre beers going to prosper simply due to image or marketing?
Has anyone else experienced this?
I hate to break the news to you, but your post indicates that you are a beer snob.
You know more about how good the beer tastes than the brewer or the other patrons at the pub and then express that sentiment.

...

But most drinkers aren't homebrewers. They don't really know all that much about beer except what they like and don't like. Bud light is still the #1 beer in the US with almost 30% of the market with regular Bud #2 at 12% and Coors light third at less than 10%.
So its obvious that mediocre beers DO prosper due to image and marketing. But now that's ME sounding like a beer snob, because I just called the top selling beers mediocre. Oh well, time to pull a pint of homebrew. :mug:
I agree with greenacarina here and disagree with you, madscientist.

There's a difference between "beer I don't like" and "beer that has objective flaws." Sounds like greenacarina is describing beer that has objective flaws.

I don't prefer Bud Light. I consider it to be a mediocre flavor profile (what little flavor exists, anyway). But I know that Budweiser is a world-class brewing operation and there is nothing that I would call a "flaw" in the way Bud Light is brewed. It is an objectively well-brewed beer.

There are a TON of small breweries / brewpubs whose beer is NOT well-brewed. Beer that I would be ashamed to call my homebrew. Beer that turns me off to the point that I don't go to those establishments a second time.

Now, there are a lot of beer styles I'm not a fan of. Many of them are your characteristic "whales". I honestly don't like imperial stouts or barleywine [too sweet for my palate, generally]. But like many homebrewers, I've been doing this long enough that I can tell whether an imperial stout or barleywine is well-made or not, even though I don't prefer the style.

We can call out poorly-brewed beer as objectively bad beer. That's not a matter of taste. The fact that poorly-brewed beer survives in the marketplace is a sign that the hype of "craft" has drawn people who don't yet understand the difference between a well-made and a poorly-made beer, but I trust that will change over time.

I have a Rye beer that doesn't fit any style. It's an ale, and I'm not the only one who thinks it's a good beer. But he can't find a style to put it in, so he's confused.

I think he's totally and utterly missing the point. I want to know, is my beer good? Would you have another? He'll come back with comments like "undercarbonated for the style" when in fact, I think he overcarbonates his beer. I'm not trying to win a competition, I'm trying to make beer I relish, and others relish as well. His approach may be style appropriate but it's NOT better.

I'm about done with judging. I have enough positive feedback from others--positive feedback where they want another, and another, and not just because it's sometimes free--that I believe my beers are doing very well. No off flavors. Clean. Tasty. I'll put them in a competition (local) and the winner has off flavors! Extract twang, sour aftertaste--makes me wonder whether the judges have come to expect those flavors and then reward them.
...
All that ranting aside, people like what they like. But man, sometimes I cannot understand the focus on hitting a style exactly. I know, I know, it's about the only way to have a competition with possibly objective standards, but even then, judges are all over the place.
I also never got this... Why tf should I try to match expectations which were set up by somebody I do not even know? I brew to match my friends and my own taste, I do not give a single something if this matches a style or not.

A style might be a good starting point to explore possibilities, brew one beer according to style, find out what the ingredients and the process does to the taste of it and then alternate to your own liking. But that's really it!

I am going to brew a mild with 20% flaked barley and Belgian yeast next week. You know why? Because I can and because I think I might like it very much and I hope my friends do to.
I agree with you both in the sense that brewing "to style" is only necessary if you're brewing for competition. Again, like my point above, there's a difference between evaluating a beer for objective merits as to whether it's well-brewed and evaluating a beer to style.

I recently entered a competition and put my pilsner into both the "Czech Pale Premium Lager" category as well as the "German Pilsner" category. The same beer placed 1st of 5 entries in Czech Lager (BJCP cat 3) and didn't place at all in 4 entries in the Pale Bitter European Beer (BJCP cat 5). I *know* the beer is good, and there might be some judging inconsistency of course, but even before entering I thought the beer better matched Czech pils vs German pils. It seems the judging bore that out.

That said, people who get hamstrung into "style" when it's not a competition scenario are IMHO arbitrarily limiting their experience. We use beer styles to help people anchor an expectation of a beer, but sometimes if we want to brew something that tastes good but doesn't "fit the style", that's fine. In fact, that's something I do often because it's easy to find beer that's made exactly to style at the store. I've made a really nice Vienna Rye Lager, which doesn't fit any style, but it's delicious and I can't get one of those at the local liquor store.

Arguing against style guidelines with people who are attached to them is tilting at windmills. Brew what you like, and if it's delicious, it doesn't matter whether it's "to style" or not.
 

Homercidal

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So get this; I am talking with a brewer at a nearby brewery who just happened to be a short-term member of our brewclub (He had to leave the club for official purposes by accepting the brewer position). We were talking about the quality of the beer there and I mentioned how I tasted more than 1 SOUR beer one day that was not supposed to be sour. I assumed they got some kegs mixed up, but he informs me that no, they were infected. There's been a problem lately and it seems to have started about the time they moved the brewery operations from the kitchen to a separate room. This should have been a more ideal location, and they got a biggish homebrew system to replace the smaller system they had.

Apparently this move into the new space makes it ideal for certain microbes to flourish. It's the only thing I can think of. He shares his brewroom with a good-sized smoker and whatnot. He's tried working with the management to find a solution for his fermentor temperature, and that is better, but they are still getting sour infections. He's gone over the system as much as he knows how, but when asking the management to help find a solution, he was told, "It is what it is."

Excuse me? This is supposed to be a kind of fancy eatery! Sure they can bring people in with the food, but everyone I know orders craft beer from other places when they eat there. To serve SOUR, infected beer is beyond lazy, it's terrible business! They started getting bad reviews about it. If they don't change something, pretty soon they will have a bad reputation and lose more customers.

I've always noticed a certain phenolic flavor to their hosue beers before, and that seems to have gone away after changing brewers, but not dealing with an infection issue, and then serving that infected beer, is insane! The servers claim they don't like beer and can't tell the difference. I advised he make a device to sample from the kegs prior to making them available for tapping at the bar. This would be the very minimal QC!

I didn't have a chance to talk at length about it as the brewday was finishing up, but I wonder if I should ask him if he needs some help pinpointing the problem. I'd love for the local places to make excellent beer, but I'm afraid I'm wasting my time if the managers aren't ready to accept that there is a problem to start with, and that there is likely a simple solution to fixing it. This place plans to open a second location about a 1/2 hour away, and I don't know what the plans are for brewing for both places, but maybe the solution is moving the brewery to a dedicated room in the new location?

I believe they mill grain in the brewing area now. They smoker is there, and it's readily accessible from the kitchen area. There is plenty of airflow due to the venting required for the smoker.

I feel like it should be possible to narrow this down to one or two potential causes, but I'm hesitant to go to the manager and suggest they make changes. After all, I'm just a homebrewer. (But then that's who they hired to brew for them a few months ago. Maybe them hearing it from another source would help?) It's frustrating because brewing is really pretty easy. Brewing really good beer might be a small challenge, but making decent beer, especially using the same system over and over, should be pretty easy.
 
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Miraculix

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I agree with you bwarbiany. Those style guideline things are forced limitations that do not make sense, therefore competitions also do not make real sense to me. It is like cooking. Telling me that I can only use this and that ingredient in my apple pie? Or my steak can only be seasoned with this and that and not pan fried but only grilled.... that wouldn't make sense at all, same for trying to force guidelines on beers.

Come on, all those styles developed over time due to either circumstances (taxes, hard water, shortage of specific grains/malts etc.) or due to taste of the people, or both combined. Meaning, there was no regulatory body telling them what to do. And they keep on developing till today. I'll bet the first IPAS tasted very much different then the ones today. So why trying to make it fix in an artificial way? Is it about making great beer or about sniffing ones own farts while looking very serious when "judging" a beer according to "guidelines" and being so so so sofisticated?

Naa, that is rubbish.
 

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I think there's value to knowing where the lines are even if you intend to color outside them. They give you a framework or an outline.
 

Miraculix

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Which lines do you mean? The ones when a "style" originated? For example an english ale? Then it would mean a non hopped, potentially soured, fermented barley drink.

Or do you mean the lines that somebody decided to exist, like the guidelines we have for competitions? But who gave the creator of those competition guidelines the power to say that a constantly evolving beer style is now fixed, not changeable and has to be within his own idea of this type of beer? Is he right? Is he wrong?

What kind of information should he take as a base to set up those rules? The time of origination (see above)? The last one hudnred years? The average of what the ten most "sophisticated beer nerds" think they know about a style which roots are ten times older than they themself?

So, which lines again?
 
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