Monday, November 28, 2011

THE BEER SAMIZDAT OVERRATED LIST

By no means a complete list, the Beer Samizdat "Overrated" list is a collection of annoyances in today's world of craft beer that need to be named, and hopefully shamed into nonexistence. There's much good in our world today, oh yes - in fact we live in a time of bounty and harmony unlike any other in beer's existence. This I believe. But the price of happy times is eternal vigilance against that which is wrong, overhyped, or which potentially even does harm to our world. Here are but a few examples:

1. BLACK IPAs - This is a trend that's already a year past its sell-by date, namely because the beers generally don't taste particularly good, and because everyone and his brother feels the need to make one. At first a bunch of Oregon know-it-alls tried to hoodwink us all into calling these trendy elixirs "Cascadian dark ales" or something like that, and of course no one outside of the Portland city limits bought into that hokum. Malting or cocoa-ing up an IPA just for the sake of darkening it is the height of sterile thinking, and yet almost every variant of the "black IPA" tastes exactly thus. I'm hoping these phony beers go the path of the dodo by the end of 2011.

2. COOKING WITH BEER - This is a longtime pet peeve of mine, just ahead of people pretending they know how to "pair" beer with food. The notion of dumping your beer into a pot of something or basting something with beer, and expecting it to taste better than something that actually enhances food is the height of folly. And yet there are magazines that devote pages every month to recipes that no one makes nor ever will make, that call for "a half bottle of Lost Abbey Devotion" to pour over chicken or whatnot. Here's an idea - make a chicken with some herbs out of a time-honored recipe book, and drink a good beer with it when you're done. And don't get your recipes out of a beer dork magazine.

3. IMPERIAL STOUT CATTLE CALLS - Listen, I totally get the siren's song of limited-batch beer. I love that stuff, and I'm ready to head down to my local beer store at a moment's notice if they're getting something in that I'll never see again. But we're at a point in craft beer's evolution that there's enough abundance to go around that neither we nor anyone else needs to line up in the morning cold, hours before a given release, like they're about to get Springsteen tickets. You missed Darklord Day or Black Tuesday? It's okay, my friend. There are at least fifteen other ass-whomping imperial stouts that'll get you nice & hammered, and will taste just as good and likely better.

4. BEER-BASED SOCIAL NETWORKING - No, I'm not talking about using Twitter to link to articles or talk up a good beer you've just had. I'm talking about "I just earned the hefedork badge on Untappd!" sort of social networking, and then auto-posting that nonsense onto Twitter. I've yet to find a beer-related app that either doesn't insult my intelligence or that does anything I need to it to do, save for the Tap Hunter app, which is a little like Beer Menus, just not as good. The others do nothing except annoy me. Twitter alcoholics crowing about where they are drinking tonight are bad enough, yet I can't imagine that anyone is interested in anyone's minute-by-minute "beer check-ins" from apps like the aforementioned Untappd. Totally soul-destroying stuff, and I'm trying to outrun it as fast as I can.

Honorable Mention: The Great American Beer Festival; beer blogs; Cantillon fetishization; "the health benefits of beer"; British beer; Pliny The Elder; Pliny The Younger; beers above 12% ABV; BrewDog; Portland, Oregon

7 comments:

Barleywhiner said...

I'm with you on 3 and 4. As far as Black IPAs are concerned, they seem a bit hit or miss. Dogzilla, I would put in the miss category, but I just finished a four pack of Odell Mountain Standard, and I thought that was fantastic.

I used to write a cooking with beer column for my homebrew club's newsletter, so I don't agree with that one. Beer can add some unique flavors to some dishes. I'm not talking about just randomly dumping some beer in a recipe.

Mark said...

Totally agree with Black IPAs and Social Networking (I use Untappd, but I will never automate messaging to Twitter/FB, or whatever - that's so annoying).

I went to Victory's cattle call for Dark Intrigue (bourbon barrel aged Storm King stout), and while it was a surprisingly painless event (it turns out that beer dorks are really friendly folks), it's not something I plan on doing ever again... and certainly not for a regular imperial stout. Even the barrel aged stuff is starting to become commonplace...

As for cooking with beer, I mostly agree (especially the recipes that have absurdly specific and expensive/rare beers). However, if I'm not a big fan of a particular beer and I still have a few left, I might use that as part of a suate or marinade. That being said, I'd never detail that with a recipe.

Pairing food and beer together seems mildly more interesting, and it does give different impressions. But it is annoying to read about...

Sean said...

Black IPAs taste like hoppy porters to me, so I don't mind them, although I agree that trying to pass them off as a new sub-sub-category of beer is annoying.

Batter for deep frying fish is always better when made with beer, my pork and venison chili calls for a bottle of beer as part of the braising liquid, and I make a lamb stew with stout that would change the way you think about cooking with beer. On the other hand, other than stout in the lamb stew, I am not too particular about what kind of beer I use, and would certainly never waste anything good as part of a recipe.

I'd add "beer cocktails" to the overrated list. I see that crap starting to crop up in magazines and trendy bars. And while we are at it, brewer collaborations tend to be a letdown, with a few exceptions, almost all involving Sierra Nevada.

Jay H said...

Sean, I thought about putting “collaborations” on there just to be contrarian and difficult – then I remembered that I liked or loved more than 80% of those that I’ve had. I think collaborating actually raises the game for a great many of brewers, as they tend to want to save some of their best work for collaboration with peers. That’s my theory, anyway. Not overrated.

Derrick Peterman said...

I happen to love Black IPAs but otherwise, your list is pretty spot on. Basically any beer you have to wait it a long line for is overrated by definition. There are jujst too many great ones out there, and most you don't have to stand in line for. (I actually stood in a short line for Pliny the Younger at the Bistro IPA Fest at SF Beer Week and have to admit, it was outstanding.)

dammitdan said...

Portland can suck, just like any city, but any town that is so into books, bikes and beer can't be all bad. Also, plenty of good, cheap chow, beautiful scenery, low rents and great bridges. Not to mention Fred and Toody!

Jay H. said...

Dan, I'm solely poking fun at their beer reputation. Don't get me wrong, my favorite way to describe Portland is as "the poor man's Seattle", but I actually like the place a lot and totally get why so many of my California pals have moved there.