Known for its whimsy, the craft beer world is newly focused on the basics: making good beer
If this week’s Great American Beer Festival — with its 800 breweries and 4,000 beers pouring — is a snapshot of the nation’s current craft beer industry, it’s a muddled image.
A confluence of market forces is leading brewers to chase new trends and take risks that diminish the focus on quality and consistency that helped build the industry’s collective brand.
More and more, it fuels concerns that craft beer is unapproachable, confusing and not always tasty. It’s easy to see why that’s the case. This year at GABF, more than ever before, you need a dictionary to translate the descriptions of the beer. A pastry stout? A milkshake IPA? A tiki sour?
All demonstrate the innovation and creativity that make craft beer so novel and fun, but not all meet quality standards. This gets to a blunt reality: Not all the beer at GABF is good. And it contributes to an identity crisis for the industry.
Katie Nierling, the beer buyer for Parry’s Pizzeria and Bar, sipped a classic pilsner at a GABF kickoff party earlier this week and put it succinctly. “Quit putting the kitchen sink in your beer,” she said. “I just want beer again.”
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