I return from three weeks of travelling and seven months of not blogging to bring you a message:
Craft beer is terrible.
I’ve just come back from a trip to Michigan and Illinois. And it seems like, just as the Americans have only recently discovered techno – despite having invented it – and called it “EDM”, they’ve also only recently discovered real ale. They call it craft beer, and it’s a minefield.
Every bar we went to offered about 76 varieties of craft beer. Most restaurants have also succumbed, with many eateries dedicating more menu real estate to elaborate craft beer tasting notes than they did to their food.
During my trip, I tried eight varieties, six of which were appalling.
The first was the worst. It promised to deliver ultimate refreshment through light, floral notes, but it actually tasted like piss. I appreciate that everyone compares unsatisfactory drinks to urine, but seriously, this stuff really did taste just like piss. It was sour and acidic, and I would have been better off downing the miniature bottle of lemon vinaigrette they’d served on the plane.
The second I tried was slightly better, but only in the same way that a stubbed toe is preferable to a leg amputation. This one had an enticing steampunk sort of name – Krankshaft, or something – and it tasted like the worst sort of cheap wine – that is, like Ribena that’s been left in the sun.
It was at this point that it was pointed out to me that I might have some more luck with the darker craft beers. This actually turned out to be good advice – I had one called Dead Guy, which though forgettable, was not overly offensive. Another one I tried on the same evening combined craft beer and bourbon. It wasn’t bad, but that might only be because of the dominant bourbon flavours.
I forget which other craft beers I tried, and I can’t think of anything more damning. They weren’t so bad as to leave a lasting impression, but they weren’t even good enough to leave a vague notion that they had, at least, been drunk. They were just bland. And at $8+ a pop, blandness is particularly unforgivable.
When experimenting with real ale in the UK, my strategy is usually to pick the option that has the most interesting name, or the most striking image on the tap. If there’s a legendary award-winning real ale that cures cancer while causing all who drink it to break into spontaneous tears of gratitude for the benevolent grace of a master brewer god, unless there’s anything at all remarkable about it’s name, chances are I’ll ignore it. Instead I’ll choose something sludgy and hideous with a name like “Witch’s Carbuncle Acid”.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m perhaps not the most qualified to judge the merits of American craft beer. What’s more, I’m told that neither Michigan nor Illinois are noted for their craft beer anyway. The small selection I sampled may well be the worst of a very bad bunch.
Nevertheless, the craft beer craze has to stop. It’s saturated all bars and restaurants with choking fumes of pretension and foul airs of unwarranted superiority. I’m confident that even Bud Light, which might as well be carbonated puddle water, tastes better than 98% of all craft beer.
And it doesn’t just look bad, smell bad, taste bad, and cost far too much – craft beer is also terrible for the environment.
It’s estimated that a new craft brewery opens in the US every 16 hours. As this newsreader and robot explain, a drinks industry based on endless growth is unsustainable:
Eventually this swamp gas bubble will burst – but hopefully before then America will rediscover cocktails and call them Flavormixes or something.