Craft brewing once defined itself by wide-ranging innovation. Brewers pushed past previously defined boundaries to explore the outer edges of what constituted beer. They based some ideas on long abandoned brewing traditions, conceiving others out of sheer boredom or pure devilish curiosity. The age of extreme was a wild one, where anything could (and did) happen. It was fun, brutish, and, thankfully, a stepping stone on the path to greater beer knowledge.
Today’s focus on IPA, and hazy, juicy New England IPAs specifically, is the opposite of that age of wonder. Our hyper focus on this new style has rendered beer homogenous and even boring. Instead of exploring the wide variety of styles and flavors available, we’re settling for a debate over whether an IPA is hazy enough. This is the death of creativity, the stifling of craft brewing’s spirit.
Under this hazy hege mony, many craft brewers must now, for the first time, brew a style they don’t even like. Stories abound of new breweries trying to start with German or Belgian styles only to pivot hard to hazy IPAs after a few tight months or years of operation. Lager and Saison brewers are now churning out canned NEIPAs in order to meet the loud demand of their consumers.
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#130 (November 2017)