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…