We saw Jason Isbell (and The 400 Unit, with James McMurtry opening; pretty good deal) in concert last week. The playlist included his song, “Different Days,” and although the lyrics have next to nothing to do with what follows I heard his voice singing “Those were different days” when I came across this passage today.
It appeared in the May/June 1998 issue of The New Brewer magazine, at the time the journal of the Institute of Brewing Studies, the predecessor of the Brewers Association. The “Industry in Review” included a few paragraphs titled “Running Out of Novelty Flavors.”
This seems to be the case, and maybe it’s not such a bad situation. The short history of U.S. craft brewing contains an incredibly long list of different, non-traditional grains, herbs spices, fruits and a few vegetables that commercial brewers have put in their beer. Sometimes it’s more for fun and excitement—to create a special or novelty beer—and other times it’s more for profit—to participate in a growing category. Alternatively, it gives a brewery the distinction of being the “first” to brew with a particular ingredient, a claim to fame that usually far outlast the product itself. A notable example is the story of McMenamins Mars Bar Ale, which has achieved industry folk legend status, even though it was one batch of beer more than a decade ago.
In a market full of porters, stouts, bocks and wheat beers, brewers are still trying hard to come up with new beers to distinguish themselves from other competitors and crave out their own niche. In 1997 a few brewers made beer using hemp seeds and a few others made the first vanilla beers. Now that the list of all conceivable ingredients being in drinkable beer—within reason—seems close to being exhausted, the trend of trying to invent the new novelty may be ending.
That notwithstanding, craft brewing will continue to be a safe realm for creating new flavors and experimenting with different grains, different yeast, and new combinations of ingredients never before attempted. In addition, the whole world of indigenous beer styles brewed by different cultures still awaits the more adventurous micro- and pubbrewers.
No, I did not find this while researching pastry stouts.