Just like you, but different
When I found myself pondering why I wouldn’t open a bottle of a 2013 beer that I have in my fridge it led me to thinking about why I have the beer in the fridge in the first place.
It also lead me to thinking about this relentless pursuit of the newest iteration and release of a beer., which also leads you to ponder the nature of the craft brewing industry.
So why do I regularly and religiously search out the newest and most unusual beers? Why indeed? Let’s say a beer is $10 +/- a regular bottle or can, or perhaps $15 +/- for the larger bottles, and say $25-30 for the limited edition made from angels tears release.
$10 beer. It’s unlikely that you’re going to ever get the ultimate beer for this price. You might get the beer that is absolutely in your wheelhouse. But also at $10 there’s this new release from another brewer, similar style, and that’s where you go to. Rinse and repeat.
More so for the $15 beers, because surely for this tier the similar style beer from a different brewer is very tempting, you might even jump styles as this is kind of a luxury price. Also it’s the price of a fairly decent New Zealand wine and needs. to be a more considered purchase.
Tier 3, the top end, and I’ve spent wild amounts of money on a 650 – 750ml bottle of beer in this range, the kind of $60-$70 bracket, this really is performance art. These beers are going to be brilliant, the best, the nirvana, pinnacle, peak of beers, because even if they’re not you’re going to talk yourself into believing they are. Or not if you’re honest.
In my fridge I’ve got at least 5 tier 3 beers, and 5 or 6 from the mid-tier, and is is my want I will drink them as a special occasion and share that occasion as a post, pictures and opinions, a beer and vinyl post perhaps. I’ve got a beer from 2013 in the fridge, brought in 2013 that is on the list of beers to be drunk as an occasion.
I have a fear that the 2013 beer in my fridge might not have aged well, and also that it might be the last ever bottle, and whilst it’s not worth anything more than I paid for it I somehow see it as a treasure. Stupid really.
Cellared beers don’t appear to be a big thing, there are a couple of beers that get a passing indication that you can cellar for a while and that should improve, they typically are stouts or barleywine or that heavier beer. Never an IPA. But there are very few old beers being reviewed or drunk. There’s probably a very good reason that I’ve just been avoiding, an elephant in the room, it might just be that beers are not made to age.
Craft brewers have a core range, particular the brew-pub brewers, the pilsner, the pale, the IPA, of late perhaps a sour. Safe that there is a ready market to take up the production, the steady market. Very few brewers or indeed craft brewers make only one beer, even Guinness make variants. I’m probably wrong but the number of single beer brewers must be single digit.
I’m pretty sure that I’de have drunk the same beer packaged under a different name, not a core range name change, but a beer called something other than the first time it appeared. We know e’re gullible, and unless you’ve gone and done put something really really specific in your beer, then I don’t think the average, or perhaps expert, drinker, is going to recognise the same IPA under two different names a couple of months apart. I’m not saying it does happen, I’m suggesting that it could happen, possible has, and I’ve probably drunk it with two experiences based on the label information and the peer reviews. A brewer is going to have to be pretty dim if they’ve produced a below parr beer only to reproduce it and expect a different result, but lets say that it’s a really good beer, what better way to tenement a reputation than to reproduce it, re-name it and gain the plaudits. I know brewing is an exacting science, but tweaking the recipe will give a different result , suddenly you’ve got a series. Suddenly you have those who a fear of missing our queuing for your output.
Another strategy or trick is of course to label the output as bottle number 1 of (say) 1500. I’ve got no issue with this, and the integrity of the brewer is immedialy evident, reputation being everything, but I’m sure I’ve seen limited bottle runs and the same beer on limited keg release.
Brewers appear to have no choice but to stay on the treadmill in the same way that I am, customers can and will get bored, and the whole point of craft-brewing is ‘always something new’ not ‘always the same thing, but better than the big-brewers’. Constant and continual change, variation on a theme, ploys and strategies to entice the volatile purchaser, a constant challenge. For some the only way is to control the production end-to-end, control the costs, cut out the middle man, for others it’s about a mystique, making brilliant beer but in small numbers that gathers about it a special fevered fan base that will snap up all the production without question. I don’t need to see articles explaining the profit margins, the costs of production and distribution, but I’m sure my weekly spend doesn’t make the difference between success and failure, the outlay for the 350 or so unique beers that I brought the last year made a dent in my own budget but I don’t think it’s something that brewers ponder, mostly because its seems they don’t have time because standing still is not an option.
oh as a final thought there are (as in 2017) 194 breweries and craft breweries and brewpubs in New Zealand. There’s an interesting insights here. There’s probably more now, possibly less. Seems I’ve a few challenges ahead to chase all of them down.
Where then does that leave me, a beer drinker, a chaser? Firmly on the treadmill, or on the sideline with Fear of missing out. What price is participation in the chase?
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American Dark Lager
American Pale Ale
American Strong Ale
Belgian Strong Ale
Belgian Style Wit
Belgian White Witbier
Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut
Bière de Garde
Dunkel / Munich Lager
English Pale Ale
English Strong Ale
Flanders Red Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale
IPA – India Pale Ale
NZ Pale Ale
Russian Imperial Stout
Strong Pale Lager/Imperial Pils
New Zealand Beer
There’s a place in town I’ve been frequenting lately. It’s called The Shack. Has great burgers and other food. And they have about fifteen beers on tap. They don’t brew it themselves. It’s a constantly rotating group of beers from brewers, mostly California-based, but not entirely. What amazes me is how frequently, almost every single beer on their list is an IPA, or variant of an IPA. There just can’t be that many different ways to make an IPA.
Meanwhile, they almost never have any pilsners or lagers or porters or stouts or anything else, other than a pale ale, a wheat beer, and that’s about it. This IPA craze needs to end.
It’s interesting what brewers are doing to stay relevant. It’s somewhat of a shame that they can’t just produce their standard lineup and occasionally experiment. It seems that they have to be constantly pushing the limits of what they do, coming up with new styles, new tweaks. It’s the treadmill as you suggest. And I wonder how much of that treadmill is driven by the consumer and how much is driven by the brewer. I can appreciate the desire to keep trying to create something new. It would be boring to keep producing the same five or ten beers forever. But just like The Shack has so many IPAs, some of the breweries I visit have so many IPAs on their list, I wonder if it really is that creative what they’re doing.
I forgot the “Hazy” versions of their beer, I had the Ninkasi Total Domination and then their Hazy Domination, pretty much the same beer really.
I’d be confident that all the IPAs on tap are about the same price, and you’re torn between the one you had last time, or the new one, same price, this time, and so there you are on the treadmill.
The money isn’t really in the experimental beers, and you have to have a strong model if you want to barrel age a beer for 12/18 months, hoping that you’re still in business.
I’m not an insider nor do I have the ear of any brewers, and I doubt if they’d tell, but I don’t recall ever reading or hearing about a beer that just went wrong in the brewing and had to be discarded, ir probably became a brewers special 🙂
Pilsners and Lagers have to be be really well crafted so as not to taste just like Coors or Bud, Heineken or whatever euro lager I available, probably why I look out for the India Pale Lagers when they come around, because you know crossing. a lager and an IPA, what could possibly go wrong?
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