Saturday, 18 May 2013

Alexander Keith's Hop Series: An Exciting Prospect?

As an avid craft beer enthusiast and anti-macro beer guy generally, one may find my tempered excitement at the idea of Alexander Keith's Hop Series products bizarre.  And it is!  Though I have yet to try them and won't be seeking them out intentionally, my tempered excitement is fuelled by the following logic:

I am excited that upon those rare occasions when I end up at a bar not of my choosing, when the options are 9 kinds of macro-brewed lagers that are all essentially the same beer with no alternatives, I may in this pending future have what may amount to a vaguely tolerable alternative.

That, however, isn't the crux of my excitement.  To me, it means macros are realizing something: people want more flavourful beer and I doubt this is a market they can compete in.  However, in the process of trying to compete, I think the macros are paving the way for their loyal legions to discover a gradual shift towards more hop-forward products that could only expand craft consumption and, inevitably, production.  By this I mean, they risk introducing the Keith's faithful to flavour and, as happened with me, this is a step towards bolder tasting beers.  Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but it just may be that this series will actually advance the interests, the market, and the evolution of the craft beers I love.

Ironically, at the same time this launch is taking flight, a Slate article has arrived denouncing craft hops primacy.  Ironic though this may be, I thought I'd simply add that what this article gets right is that nuanced craft flavours abound and we'd benefit from an expanded selection that includes, say, sour more frequently (implied in the article by the nod to wild yeast).  Yet, one of many things I find it gets wrong is that many craft beer enthusiasts love a variety of flavours and styles (malt-forward, hop-forward, sour, tart, funky, etc and not simply hops-only) and that it is scarcity of product that creates the pursuit at times.  It isn't a market of hops-monolith, even if it is predominant, and many of us appreciate the existent diversity and path to it that this article seems not to notice.

Though I truly do love both hop-forward IPAs and sours, I seek out sours since solid IPAs are so readily available while solid sours are so rare.  But in another market - the one from not so long past, perhaps, dominated as it was by the bland - we'd all be seeking our bitter-fix.  We need not temper our hops insanity; rather we must expand our horizons and taste explosions further!  Hops and its perpetual evolution is but one valuable path in that pursuit.  I see it not as diminishing our options but capitalizing on a trend in order to allow the craft beer movement to thrive.

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