The Spectacle Blog

The Beer Spectator: Get Your Chai Out of My Beer

By on 5.3.14 | 11:58AM

What’s in my beer? Pretzel and raspberry? Isn’t chai a type of tea? Why does my beer taste like somebody accidentally dropped a Mound in it? 

These are just a few of the freakish brews in the “extreme beer” category.

Brewers can throw whatever they want into beer: herbs, spices, tree bark, chocolate, coffee. This is one of their great blessings: Beer is only restrained by our imagination.

But it's also a curse, as unrestrained innovation undermines the delectable elements of the permanent things. Those permanent things are water, barley, and hops. 

In reaching for extreme heights, brewers walk too close to the fermenting barrel’s edge. Eventually, they will drown in their pretzel water.

Drinking more pale and amber ales, I am realizing that simple, malt-forward ales are incredible little luxuries. To crack open a cold one and just sip is a blessing that many forget as they empty their backyards into their worts.  

Lagers, pale ales, porters, and stouts. What’s wrong with just making tasty, basic versions of those? Maybe using one extra ingredient, but never more.

This is beer, not whipped cream vodka. When I see three or more adjunct ingredients in one bottle of beer, I pine for the days of the Bavarian Purity Law.  

Forced for centuries to brew with so few ingredients, Germany’s beer culture has fared quite well. Most people love a good Helles. Bavarian brewers focused on one style, leading to excellence.  

While creativity should be welcomed, every artist needs to understand his limits. The craft beer world found its limiting line when Dogfish Head started brewing in 1995. While not all of its choices are appetizing, Dogfish produces traditional styles in radical ways. The Indian Brown Ale and the Midas Touch are two examples of that restrained innovation.   

Beyond that, beer becomes farce. What I don’t want to drink is anything with chipotle in it (sorry Rogue).

Beer is made of barley and hops. Apparently craft brewers believe they have exhausted the potential of both.

I’ll stick with the ones who prioritize the basics; you can keep the raspberries.

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