Friday, January 03, 2014

Against the Grain

I keep meaning to do more posts for "The Session" (aka Beer Blogging Friday), but I keep not getting around to it. Maybe I'll be better in 2014.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about,  "The Session" is simply an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants.

If you want to know more ... feel free to visit Brookston Beer Bulletin and read about "The Sessions".

Anyway, the first topic of 2014 comes from Rebecca at The Bake and Brew. In her article, Announcement! The Session #83 – Against the Grain, she asks ....

"How much is our taste or opinion of a craft beer affected by what friends and the craft beer community at large thinks? What beer do you love that no one else seems to get? Or what beer do you say “no thanks” to that everyone can’t get enough of?"
Interest topic ... right? Personally, I think there is lots of "peer pressure" in the craft beer community.

As craft beer fans, we all go "against the grain", don't we? 90 to 95% of the beer consumed in the United States is mass-produced light-flavored, light-colored, light-bodied lagers. If we wanted to conform to the norm, we would not even be drinking craft beer.

As an aside, I currently have a 20-pack of Coors Light sitting on my kitchen floor because one of those 90% majority beer drinkers thought he was being nice by bringing me a 20 pack of beer as thanks for a night of drinking my home-brew. His heart was in the right place, and I can't fault the guy because he is an incredibly nice person. It does sort of show you how weird we craft beer drinkers are to most people, though. My wife tried to give him the Coors Light back, but he wouldn't hear of it. I'm not even sure what I can do with 20 bottles of Coors Light. If you have suggestions, leave a comment below.

But, for now, let's ignore the fact that by our very nature we craft beer drinkers go "against the grain" of mainstream beer.

If you read this blog semi-regularly, you've probably come across me writing about beers from the Zymurgy Best Beer in America list. Every year when Zymurgy posts their list, I go through and find all the beers that I have never had (or at least I don't remember ever having tried). Then, during the year, I try to pick up as many of these beers as I can. I drink them, and then I blog about them. The list is the result of Zymurgy readers sending in their favorite beers. Sort of a craft-beer popularity contest.

A couple years ago, I had Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA because it was on this list, and I found some in my local liquor store.  Of course, this beer has quite a following. It appears that lots of people love this beer. I was really looking forward to trying it. So much, in fact, that I got myself two overpriced bottles.

I was extremely disappointed when I tried the 120 Minute IPA. Honestly, I thought it was horrible. I feel bad saying it, because I am a fan of Dogfish Head. But, I really didn't like it. To me, the high alcohol and big malt bill made the beer way too sweet and boozy, even for the claimed 120 IBU in the beer. It was something I finished, so it was not dump-it horrible, but it bad enough a tasting experience that I will never seek this out again. Whenever I see someone online saying something nice about it, I totally don't believe them. There is no way in my mind that people actually like the Dogfish Head 120 IPA.

But, based on the following it has, I am not typical the typical beer geek in my assessment of this beer. I am obviously going "against the grain" on that one.

For the past 3 or 4 years, #1 on that Zymurgy list has been Pliny the Elder. When I tasted it, I thought is was a wonderful beer, but nothing jumped out at me to put it hands-down the best beer in America. I can think of quite a few IPAs / Double IPAs that given a chance, I would drink before Pliny. Here in Colorado, I know that when Pliny becomes available, it attracts a crowd and doesn't last long. Personally, if I would have to wait in line for this beer, I just wouldn't.

Actually, I feel that way about all the special release craft beers that attract such attention. When I see that people are spending hours waiting in line for a beer, I think those people are foolish. I realize this goes "against the grain" of most craft beer geeks, but I would rather drink something that I can get in a few minutes at one of my local breweries than anything that comes out with such an event that you have to work to get a tiny little taste.

When it comes right down to it, though, it is ok to go against the grain. And, it is ok to go with the grain. Just because I don't like high-alcohol beers and don't think it worth my time to seek out hard-to-get beers doesn't mean you shouldn't.

The whole point of craft beer is that none of us want to go with what we find boring. We want something different from the Buds, Millers, Coors. We want different from what 90% of beer drinkers are drinking.

If we all liked the same thing, it would be as boring as if we all drank the mass-produced American Light Lagers.

So, I say, however you decide what you like, embrace your differences. Drink what you like. Like what you drink. Have fun.

Happy New Year, everybody.


  1. You can send that Coors Light our way. Or use it for cooking (brats, breads, lots of other things). Or use it to wash your hair. Or water your plants.

  2. Do you get a lot of out of state craft beers?

    Here in Ontario we have quite a few craft breweries ( ), but to get a craft beer from out of province it either has to be made in large quantities or you have to go get it in the other province.

  3. Scarlet ... you guys can go buy your own 20 pack of Coors for much less than I could ship it for.

    Generally, I would rather cook with good flavorful beer (although cooking is probably what I'll use it for).

    Maybe I'll try a bottle to wash my hair and see how it goes.

    Don't think my plants like Coors Light.

    Thanks for the input. Keep the ideas coming. If anyone can come up with something creative to use this for, I'm sure it is you.

  4. Paul ...

    In Colorado, I have access to LOTS of out-of-state beers. Generally speaking, though, unless it is on my Zymurgy list, I stay away from anything that isn't local. It is not that I am a Colorado beer fan, though. I like to drink local beers no matter where I am. Part of the fun of traveling is sampling the local beers.


  5. Coors light makes a good neutral flavored beer to use for testing various dry hops. I did the experiment with Lone Star but any macro beer will work. Just drop a pellet or two of various hops into each bottle, reseal, let sit for a week, pour through a strainer and taste. If you google you can find details from a blog post from a guy who did this. My experiment turned out really well. My fellow beer geeks were amazed at how good some of the macro beer tasted when it was dry hopped. It's a great way to try out different hop combinations.

  6. Thanks, Jim, awesome suggestion. Never would have thought of that.

  7. When I get a case of mbc I save it for my craft beers that have gone horribly wrong. I had two cases of English bitter that I made that was far to malty, and bitter. I mixed the two beers 50/50 and it was enjoyable enough not to poor down the drain. Also I love New Belgium Shift on tap. I had a Sam Adams White IPA, that I could barely finish.

  8. Well, coincidentally, Anonymous, Sunday I blended a bottle of Super Cold Coors Light with a bottle of my X-Mas Ale 2013. The X-Mas Ale is a smoked winter warmer. While I would not say it went "horribly" wrong, it can be a bit much. The Coors Light really cut the smoke and smoothed out the beer.

    I also used the 50 / 50 blend to soak my brats in before grilling. That worked out well too.

    Plus, the double-stage cold activation and the blue mountains really help determine the coldness ... I guess.

  9. I second Jim's suggestion - was going to mention it myself. Here's one way to approach it:

    and another...

  10. Thanks for the input, Bryan. Absolutely on the list.