Too many microbrews are just TOO MUCH


On the whole, I like the idea of microbrew beer. Anything that helps America break the hegemony of Bud Light seems to me a good thing in general.

But I have a complaint. Something crystallized for me last night. I was at an event at which several microbreweries were sharing their wares. And I started thinking a thought that had not fully formed for me before…

Whatever they call their specialized brews, and however they describe their qualities, these uberserious brewers tend to have one thing in common: The taste is just TOO MUCH. There’s a complete lack of nuance, subtlety or restraint.

They’re all so concerned with differentiating themselves from the popular American mass-produced beers, so worried about not being tasteless dishwater, that they go overboard with the flavoring. Too much hops. Too much maltiness. Too much everything. It’s as though a cook dumped every spice in his cabinet into a stew to keep it from being bland, and the result was disastrous.

The taste tends to stick with you the rest of the evening, whatever else you eat or drink.

I tasted a stout last night, grimaced and told the guy from the microbrewery that it tasted like an IPA. And by that I meant an American IPA, which is to say something overpowering. An India Pale Ale, properly understood, should be <em>refreshing</em>, like the Fuller’s Bengal Lancer IPA I had in England, inspired by the ales formulated in the 19th century specifically to refresh the troops in India. And it got the job done, going by my experience with it.

Last night, I tried a porter from the same brewery, and it tasted like the stout, which as I said tasted like an American IPA — a truckload of hops dumped in with other overbearing flavors. I put the small glass down as soon as I had walked out of sight.

Occasionally I really like something from a microbrewery, such as an ESB I had not long ago at Hunter-Gatherer. But too often they’re trying too hard to impress, and it’s just too much

46 thoughts on “Too many microbrews are just TOO MUCH

  1. Doug Ross

    There are good craft beers and bad ones. They are starting to go too far with the flavor variations but, in my view, nothing beats a good hoppy IPA with the right mix of citrus hops. And there is nothing worse than the swill known as Bud Light, Corona, Miller Lite. That is just Dasani with alcohol.

    In 2015, I drank a different beer every day of the year and the list was dominated by IPAs. Here’s the top 25 – You;ll note a lot of flavored IPA variations. I’m also a fan of sours, but a bad sour is worse than Bud Light.

    Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale (Charlotte NC)
    Old Mecklenburg Brewery Dunkel (Charlotte)
    Triple C Smoked Amber
    Noda Hop Drop and Roll
    Appalachian Mountain Brewery IPA
    Red Brick Session IPA Casual
    All Idaho Smash IPA
    Sweetwater Take Two Pils (Atlanta, GA)
    Quest Brewing (Greenville, SC) Smoking Mirror Smoked Porter
    New Belgium Ranger IPA (Fort Collins CO)
    Sierra Nevada Boomerang IPA (Chico CA)
    Thomas Creek IPA
    Maine Beer Company Zoe (Freeport ME)
    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
    New Belgium Accumulation (Fort Collins CO)
    Magic Hat #9 (Vermont)
    Westbrook Gose (Mt. Pleasant SC)
    Ilkey Mayan Chocolate Chipotle Stout
    Wicked Weed Freak of nature
    Stone IPA
    Noda Midnight Madness
    Ballast Sculpin IPA
    Ass Clown Grapefruit Cayenne
    Stone Enjoy By 4-20-2015 IPA

      1. Doug Ross

        It wouldn’t be that interesting. The low point was an abomination called O’Soo Oyster Stout, brewed at Benford Brewing in Lancaster, SC. It was the only beer I didn’t finish. Tasted like a low tidal pool runoff puddle that someone dumped their ashtray into.

        My kids think its funny to buy me weird beers now. Had one this weekend called Peanut Butter Jelly Time by Catawba Brewing. The description alone should have been warning enough:

        “PBJ Time Ale is a “light brown” ale featuring subtle British hopping during the boil. This ale is aged on raspberries and real peanuts to give it layered bread, peanut, and jelly flavors. ”

        It was more raspberry than peanut buttery. I finished it but it was a struggle.

    1. Norm Ivey

      Untappd is an app that allows you to check in and rate the beers you try. I signed up on November 10, 2014. I have checked in 759 unique beers. That’s a new beer every 1.18 days. Keep in mind that many of those beers were on flights, so they were 2-ounce samples. I swear they were.

      Looking at my beer list sorted by highest ratings, I tend to really like stouts (despite that IPA is my go-to) and beers from Stone Brewing. My top beers:

      1. Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada (The only beer I’ve ever rated as 4.75 out of 5. I still have a bomber waiting for a special occasion)
      2. KBS Kentucky Breakfast Stout by Founders
      3. Mexican Wedding Cake by Westbrook
      4. Stone Enjoy by 2.14.16 IPA (Stone does a series of “Enjoy By” beers designed to be consumed as fresh as possible. Enjoy By 5.29.17 should be on the shelves soon.)
      5. Sunday Morning Stout by Weyerbacher
      6. Stone Enjoy By 7.4.16 IPA
      7. Mephistopholes’ Stout
      8. Stone Enjoy By 10.31.14 IPA
      9. Backwoods Bastard by Founders
      10. Stone Enjoy By 7.4.15 IPA (I’m beginning to notice a pattern…)
      11. Double Bastard in the Rye by Stone
      12. Stone Enjoy By 4.20.15
      13. Key Lime Pie Gose by Westbrook (Really unique beer–just the right mix of sweet and sour.)
      14. Stone RuinTen Triple IPA
      15. Freak of Nature IPA from Wicked Weed in Asheville

      1. Norm Ivey

        Crap. That’s not right. Those were global ratings, not mine. I’ll try again. My apologies. This list sounds more like my tastes.

        1. Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada
        2. Icky Sticky IPA by 2nd Story
        3. Ten FIDY stout from Oskar Blues
        4. All Day IPA from Founders
        5. ESB Inaugural Ale (same as their regular ESB) fromSwamp Cabbage
        6. Sweetgrass American Pale Ale from Grand Teton
        7. Westbrook IPA
        8. Boomerang IPS from Sierra Nevada
        9. Stone Enjoy By 10.31.14
        10. Bigfoot from Sierra Nevada (same as #1 without the bourbon barrel flavor)
        11. Molotov Cocktail Single Simcoe Hop Edition by Evil Twin (Honestly don’t recall this one)
        12. Yeti stout by Great Divide
        13. Alpha Crucis by Seminar (Florence)
        14. Brutus stout by Conquest
        15. Rabid Duck Russian Imperial Stout by Duck Rabbit
        16. Rocket Science IPA by Fullsteam

        I wen 16 deep because Fullsteam also brewed the beer which I gave my lowest rating to: Cack-A-Lacky Ginger Pale Ale. I gave it a .5. I do not like ginger in my beer.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I’ve tried about 2/3 of those beers. I especially like the NODA Hop Drop and Roll. And pretty much everything Stone makes.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    And now I’m going to disqualify myself completely by confessing that, while I find Bud Light to be nasty, I very much like quite a few mass-produced beers. My favorites are:

    1. Yuengling. My most frequent order from the tap at Yesterday’s.
    2. Dos Equis Amber. Which has a lot in common with the Yuengling.
    3. Michelob Amber Bock. I especially like it after a round of golf. Simply because it’s been on tap at a number of courses where I’ve played.
    4. Budweiser. Yep, I admit it. Good stuff on a hot day. But I hate the light version. I think the thing that makes me like it, unlike say Miller, is that rice replaces some of the barley in it. Or maybe the difference is in my imagination. But it’s the king of the pale, light-flavored American macros.
    5. Guinness Stout. Completely different thing from the stout described above. Smooth, creamy…

    1. bud

      Budweiser and Yeungling are just horrible. I’m not fond of IPAs either. Some of the fruity beers, are especially good, especially the blueberry and grapefruit. And finally to be a full blown contrarian I generally like craft porters and stouts. Different tastes make the world go round.

      1. JesseS

        Yeungling’s Premium might change your mind. It’s a legitimately tasty “fishing” beer. Though I’m fine with regular Yeungling. It’s cheap, or at least use to be really cheap in college. It was to the late 90s what Rolling Rock was to the early 90s: a cheap, bitter, kinda-taste-like-a-tire, college-era, porch drinking beer.

        Budweiser on the other hand –yeah it taste like vinegar, beechwood aged vinegar.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I’m not a huge fan of any of those, but each has its place. I am always sure to have a Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, since the Lord Iveagh and I share a name if not a spelling. I brew a stout which I whimsically call Ivey’s Dry Stout.

      I agree that Budweiser and its ilk is “good stuff on a hot day”. I’m a beer geek, not a beer snob.

  3. Burl Burlingame

    I’m a dedicated consumer of Newcastle, a British ale. It hits just the right balance for me.

    Most IPAs taste like pine cones and turpentine to me.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes! Newcastle should have been on my Top Five list!

      Not sure what to knock off. Maybe the Budweiser, although I like having it on the list for reverse-snobbery shock value.

      My wife has been on a kick lately looking up walking tours of Britain that she’d like us to do someday. She mentioned one last night that features both Hadrian’s Wall and Newcastle. I endorsed that one, on account of the ale. Also, that’s the town that gave us The Animals…

  4. Claus2

    Just stick with Budweiser and forget all of the other fad beers. If you want to be like the modern Hipsters you could start drinking PBR.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I can’t get into PBR.

      But if we want to talk cheap beer, I like Gold Mine, which is sold as a loss leader at Whole Foods — only $3.99 a six-pack. Seriously.

      It’s kind of like Yuengling…

    2. Pat

      PBR was the beer on college campuses in the 1960s. And THAT is the sum total of my knowledge of beer.

    3. Norm Ivey

      I don’t think I’ve ever had a PBR unless it was at some drunken party many years ago. I’ll have to try one soon.

  5. Karen Pearson

    Personally, I like the Hazelnut Brown Ale from River Rat. I also like Holy City Pluff Mud Porter.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ve had a couple of things I liked at River Rat. But it’s been awhile, so I don’t recall the names. I think maybe that brown ale may have been one of them…

    2. Norm Ivey

      I do like me some Pluff Mud Porter. That and Lonerider’s Sweet Josie are two of my favorite cooking beers. Add a little brown ale or porter to your chili or baked beans…mmmmm.

      1. Norm Ivey

        And this (a href= and Sriracha Barbecue Sauce is my go-to for chicken thighs.

            1. Norm Ivey

              I’ve pulled lots of recipes from there. She also has a couple of books out. She has a recipe for IPA pickled jalapenos that I’m trying this weekend.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    It just occurred to me that Norm hasn’t weighed in, and on a beer topic!

    I guess he just hasn’t gotten home from school yet today…

    1. Norm Ivey

      I was at the doctor’s office for a while, and then dozed off when I get home. However, I am now fully engaged in this topic in every way.

  7. Norm Ivey

    Oh my. I had to set down my tablet and move to the PC, because I know I’ll be responding to this thread…

    I get what you’re saying. I also think sometimes the breweries are developing brews just to outdo the next guy. Just a few tips:

    1. Since you’re a fan of Yuengling, Dos Equis and Bud, look for styles like kolsch, cream ales, and saisons. Coast Brewing’s 32/50 Kolsch and Freehouse Brewery’s Ashley Farmhouse Ale (saison) are both really good without any overpowering flavors. Both breweries are in Charleston, but their beers are available here.
    2. If you’re at a new brewery, ask them what their flagship is–it’s usually going to something a little more mainstream. For example, River Rat has their Broad River Red, Swamp Cabbage has their ESB, and Conquest has their Artemis Blonde. All fantastic, balanced beers.
    3. For a really well-balanced, easy-drinking IPA, try Founders All-Day IPA.
    4. Brew your own beer. It’s really not that difficult.

    I’m an IPA freak myself–both the piney and citrusy types. And I’m not a Bud basher. I use a hammer on nails, a screwdriver on screws and a wrench on nuts. Sometimes I want a knock-you-upside-the-head IPA. Sometimes I want a lawnmower beer. I seldom drink those mass market beers, but it’s because I’m always seeking out the next new one. And like you, I don’t always like the newest thing.

      1. bud

        This Bud is not for bud. I’m neither a beer snob nor a beer expert. I just like the stuff. Love going to Hunter-Gatherer (had my retirement party there) and the Old Mill in Lexington.

        As a highway safety advocate for 30 years I can’t leave this topic without imploring folks to drink responsibly. Don’t drink and drive damn it! Too much tragedy has resulted from that bad choice. Thankfully my wife is a teetotaler.

  8. Norm Ivey

    I’ve been brewing a few years, and there are a few beers I brew repeatedly.

    My Scrub Oak Pale Ale is a simple, balanced beer. It’s not the best beer I’ve brewed, but it’s a good beer for just hanging out in the yard by the grill.

    I make an Edisto River Porter for which I use water that comes from the artesian wells at Aiken State Park that flow into the Edisto River. I chose to use the water for a porter to pay homage to the color of the river.

    The beer for which I get the most praise is my Jalapeno Wheat. When folks know I have some on tap, they come around to try it. I don’t have any right now. It’s about time to brew it again.

    My next recipe to try is a bourbon barrel stout.

    I enter some of my beers in regional competitions. I’ve managed to win two ribbons–both first place in their categories.

    My first ribbon was in 2014 for my Chocolate Scuppernong Stout. It was a nice, creamy stout that I added scuppernongs to. The grapes fermented and gave the beer a bit of a vinous quality. It probably had an ABV north of 8%. I don’t know exactly because the grapes changed everything. It was nice beer, and the ribbon was a surprise.

    I also won a first place in the IPA category in a comp last year (and that’s a big deal–it’s usually the category with the most entries) for my Citranicity IPA. It was a SMASH recipe (single malt and single hop) brewed entirely with Citra hops.

    And, yes, I share. Mi cerveza es su cerveza.

        1. Doug Ross

          Agree. Pick a date so we can plan for it!

          I’ve got all sorts of bottles I can bring for tasting.

  9. JesseS

    Give Bierkeller Columbia a try. I haven’t gone to any of their events, but on tap they are indistinguishable from their German counterparts and they seem to really take getting their styles right instead of finding reasons to stuff Carolina Reapers and skittles into everything. It’s ….refreshing.

    Looking forward to trying their Kölumbianer Kölsch, to see how it stands up to Gaffel.

    1. Norm Ivey

      I’ve not been to any of the events, but I have sampled one of the beers, I know others who have tried several. He’s making some really good stuff.

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