Far be it from me to complain much about the growth of craft brewing, but there is at least one down side to this otherwise glorious proliferation. I am speaking about the rash of mediocre India Pale Ales, Pale Ales, and Ambers. It seems that out of obligation to the unique direction American brewing has taken these styles, start ups feel the need to add just one more IPA to the mix, as if their particular blend of grapefruity nose and dry bitterness will ensure that their brewery will last into perpetuity. Some breweries are able to play the game well and actually create a singular piece of beauty, as for instance Surly Brewing did with their Furious, but overall, most, while good, even not-bad, are nonetheless not distinct enough for me to care. If I can’t remember your beer, I’ll probably just go back to my standards, ie- Two-Hearted.
But I have an idea based on how I generally approach beer drinking. I don’t know about people with a healthy enough income to sustain a line of upper-crust six packs in their chill box, but I know that I don’t have that kind of money, but I still enjoy a beer with lunch or dinner most days. And so what I often do is sustain this habit with an affordable and multi-use beer. Here in MN it’s usually something from Summit or Schell’s since they are able to keep basic 12 packs down near the $12 range. And then for special occasions or for limited releases, I’ll get the ‘nicer’ stuff.
So then, the idea. I’d love to see a brewery brew up a seasonally released session ale of some kind, like a Kolsch or Saison in the Summer, a Bitter or Mild in the Fall, a dry Stout in the Winter, maybe a Bock come Spring, or whatever, and keep it hovering at $1 a bottle. This could form the “Base” from which to launch other specialty beers or what have you. Among other things this would do, it would continue to put pressure on the mass lagers and loosen their stubborn grip on the “average Joe drinker.” There’s nothing wrong with making an “average Joe” craft beer is what I’m trying to say. Plus, it would help our current craft beer markets to start being more subtle with ingredients. Not every beer need be massively loaded with hops. Subtlety is where American beers need to start getting better.