Brew Biz: Werts and All

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

Written by Ken Carman

Topic for this edition: Extreme Brewing

This is a tough edition for me to write. I don’t think you’ll find a bigger fan of extreme brewing. But sometimes enough is enough. I think the idea for this column slipped into my cortex when the Professor posted Brew Dog’s 55% beer bottled, literally, in dead animals. Hey folks, there’s “extreme,” there’s boring Miller time and then there’s stupid gimmick time, and I don’t just mean Rocky the Squirrel’s gut filled with beer.

Before (Courtesy wii60.com)………….. After?

If anyone has a bottle of this I would love to have them prove me wrong. Hell, depending on the price, I might pay for the bottle and the shipping. You can’t get it on the east coast anywhere, I’ve checked, but once you get much above 12-14% beer usually tastes like 30 weight motor oil. Don’t believe me? Try Sam’s Triple Bock. Over the years I had a bottle or two that are slightly tolerable, but usually it makes Quaker State drained after 100,000 miles taste like a fine wine.

Please: don’t ask me how I know that. I’d rather not put my taste buds through therapy again. And beer therapists are usually big drips who charge by bubble. Let’s not even get into what they charge for decent head.

Another post a while ago at Professor Good Ales mentioned a British brewer who brewed what he claimed was a “Bitter,” a “Bitter” that hovered somewhere around 500 IBU. Isn’t there a point where we have so many IBUs we’re drinking pure hop extract? I have had beer well over 100. It’s an acquired taste, for sure. But 500? Is it even beer anymore? Again: send me a bottle… change my mind, if you can. But to call it a “Bitter?” A 5 times a normal 100ibu Double, or Imperial, IPA? Maybe. But a Bitter by definition is not only not this “bitter,” but the body wouldn’t be significant heavy enough to support the hop sense… if it actually were a “Bitter.” Bitter is a fairly light quaff, OG-wise: 1.060 max, FG 1.016 max. And compared with an IPA (1.075/1.018max) or a Double/Imperial (1.090/1.020max), not only way out of balance, but probably not worth drinking. Maybe worth the puking.

I am no one’s style Nazi, but if you brew a Russian Imperial and claim it American Light, you’re fooling no one. And a 500 ibu “Bitter” is no “Bitter,” especially the often lighter quaff like Ordinary or Special often sipped casually at Brit pubs. Even Extra lacks the body to support Imperial ibus. 500? Yeah, right.

Or maybe the brewer didn’t actually brew a Bitter, but just calls it that.

In favor of exotic adds and mixing up styles? Oh, yeah… just don’t claim it’s something it’s not. And, as one brewer related to me, no urine or fecal beers. One Specialty beer we judged… they called it Experimental back then if I remember right… a few years ago in pre-comp became known as dirty diaper beer in taste and smell. I’ll let you guess what “special ingredient” made the beer “experimental.” We still gave it a poor score, and that included some highly placed judges.

After all, before categories, or being in style, shouldn’t it really be about the beer being at least worth drinking… instead of some senseless competition to jump off progressively higher ledges that plunge deeper into barely drinkable, to undrinkable, irrationality?

I think I’m pretty good at respecting all judge’s opinions during competitions; even the weird, obsessive, less experienced and over the top egocentric ones. But if you disagree with me on this one, I must admit, I might find it a little hard to… swallow.

Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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