Brew Biz: Werts and All- Trends


Zima. According to Wiki it was brought back in 2017 and 2018 but, “It did not return in 2019.”

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers, who has been writing on beer-related topics and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for over 20 years.

           The TopicTrends: The Good, the Bad, the Yucky

 Remember Zima? Don’t you wish you could forget? Some dare called it a MALT beverage.
 There have been all kinds of trends over the years. I suppose Billy Beer might have been called “a trend.” When they vended out the brewing for Billy Beer the name became a curse. But it really depended on who brewed it. For the time the one brewed by FX Matt out of Utica, NY, was actually sort of an IPA for its time. Not bad. Not incredible, but better than a lot of the Bud clones that dominated the market in the mid 70s. Who knows, if some of the others had been better maybe the hop trend might have had an earlier start.
 But I’m really writing about trends that have homebrewer and pro-brewers going hop crazy, hazy hop crazy, sour crazy, brett crazy (While calling it all sour: really?) and lactobacillus crazy. (The short list.)
 Lacto is a good example of one of the negative sides to trends. Many I have had aren’t really definable by any style, except a non-existent one called “lacto soup.”
 We seem to do this with every trend when it first starts, and commercially it’s not just the smaller, less worshiped, brewers. I had a New England IPA by Sierra where the bitter was so strong the conflict between the two was unpleasant. Really, the best NEIPAs I’ve had focused on over the top fruity coming from the hops, but not to the point you miss the firm yet lesser bitter and the malt balance.
 Super hoppy brews really started to slide into trend status when I first got into judging beer: late 90s and on. At first there simply were too many entries that qualified, like lacto, as hop soup. Hardly qualified as beer.
 Today’s trend, among others, is an over abundance of weird and less standard styles. Seems if you can put it in beer and not poison the customer some brewer has done it, and maybe poison too: we don’t see it because it kills the brewer before it becomes a trend, praise the beer gods.
 Hey! I’m the guy who started two weird competitions, but I never had the slightest wish that really good examples of standard styles go away. I would like to see more experimenting that starts new styles. Rogue Beard Beer need not apply. Anyone else notice there’s nothing special about beard beer? Like Zima a gimmick is a gimmick. In fact, as much as I am no fan and Beard has more taste, Zima was just a hint more legit, only because it was unique, for the time. Nothing I cared for: but not the point.
 Currently there seems to be a trend towards drier brews. That’s fine, but what about those of us who preferred the styles as they were? Perhaps we should have a category for very dry brews? We could include Brut IPA, or not. Why just shift a style to drier and take away what others enjoy? Why chase a trend that may go away, why not add? Serves the same purpose. If for all practicality if the drier renditions, just to provide one example, fade away we could still shift the style then put less dry into historical. My point being just following what the industry has started to sell recently isn’t necessarily a reflection of what will be, as those of us who lived through the era of Bud clones know.
 I have nothing against trends if they add complexity and diversity to the world of beer and beer-related entries, or craft offerings. In fact that’s why I just suggested adding rather than changing a style. But I’m no fan of taking the brew ball away from others and giving it to those chasing trends. Neither am I a fan of brewers hitch a ride on true innovation while treating craft brewers, and homebrewers, as if they were tastebud-less idiots where unique, interesting, taste doesn’t matter. What matters is image. Hence perhaps the most vile trend that has popped up off and on: major brewers inventing a fictional brewery and pretending to be craft beer.

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   Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing, and commenting on, beer-related topics including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the brew business, and discussions regarding all things beer.
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