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NOVELTY BEER - What is the point?

The other day I had a long chat with a late 50’s, huge CAMRA supporter who, rather tragically, is one who has not embraced anything brewed since 1987. I didn’t shout or judge, I was just interested in his opinions to see if we shared any common thoughts. On the whole, we did not.

But one eminence did strike a chord with me and has led me to this post. Whilst discussing a decent pint of Hook Norton’s Old Hooky, a beer he professed to have first drank in 1978, he made the following statement, “Hook Norton has made a small number of beers consistently well for over 40 years. These new breweries are too prolific and don’t focus on maintaining a stellar range.” It got me thinking about some of the experimental “one-off” beers I’ve had recently, the new breweries I like that seem to have a new beer out every day and the fact that all beer lovers seem to have had a disappointing pint of Punk IPA at some point in the last 6 months.

Which leads me on to a taste test with a range of, what may only be described as “Novelty” beers, brewed by some of my favourite breweries to see if they do hold any particular relevance or sustainability.

(For several reasons, like location, I didn’t have any photos so have accompanied this with pictures I do not own)

Beer number one was By Zeus from Arbor Ales, this is part of their Freestyle Fridays range. 400 IBUs it says and one of my favourite beer names and labels of all time - this beer has much to live up to. It's a slightly hazy blonde colour, with lovely aromas; sweet sesame seed and honey, with a hint of lemon. Certainly comparable to a big double IPA at first. The taste is bitter (DUH!!!). A big citrussy hoppiness keeps trying to hit you but then those bitters steal it from your tongue. With each mouthful it’s like an attempted prison break by citrus hops being quickly overpowered by bitter malts. When they do break out they're pleasant, but just how much do I enjoy the bitter hit? Maybe a beer to experience and most probably enjoy once, but not rush to a second time

Next was the Mikkeller 10, which poured a massive head, big haze and lovely amber colour. The aroma is hops. Did they mention that there are 10 hops in this beer? Well this beer smells of hops so I’m assuming that is the case. There's also a background of hops with a little hint of hops. So what does it taste of? Well, surprisingly, it's a little malty. There's quite a balanced quality to it I was not expecting, quite a hit of alcohol that you don't anticipate and a fizzy carbonation. But aside from that it's a decent beer in the new world IPA style. Unfortunately, I reckon a beer of similar quality could be created with one or two hops. In fact I know it can, it's been done many a time. This IS a novelty act.

Finally, came the Kernel India Pale Ale Black V, again, part of a range they’ve been working through. It pours a muddy brown and is completely hazy and sediment ridden despite being settled for hours (wish I’d managed a picture.) I’m not sure what I've done wrong. It has a deep hoppy floral aroma with a big mix of sweet toffee and tulips. The taste is a little mixed. Black Jacks come through initially, followed quickly by little carbonated air bubbles, subsiding for a malt characteristic and then a long hop finish. It's a mixed bag. So we can assume it’s unbalanced and it is. If you sold this to me as a new brewer I would be intrigued and excited, but someone like The Kernel knows better than this. At this point I’m left contemplating why I spent my money on a pointless, uncared for experimentation when I could have had one of their “proper” beers.

I hate to be a killjoy but the experimentation and inexhaustible number of brews has gone a tad far recently and does need reigning in. Series such as Brewdog’s Abstrakt were all well and good, and a novelty at first, but if the core range is suffering then its not worth it to me. The fact that I know I’ve had bad Punk IPA recently is testimony that it is a beer I will happily go back to. And isn’t brewing a business after all? Don’t they need us to go back for more?


Tandleman said…
Quite a lot to think about there. Good post.
Mark Johnson said…
I try to keep it short and snappy but always fail. Cheers
Real Ale Online said…
You have shared a great information about Novelty Ales and Real Ale By Mail Order.Which are very informative for us. Thanks

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