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Beer has not jumped the shark

The headline above is simply an answer to a question asked at Rate Beer that made its way into my Twitter feed.

Confession. The question actually reads “When did craft beer jump the shark?” I think making the conversation simply about [no modifier needed] beer will do.

(It seems that the discussion at Rate Beer, which was three posts old when I first visited, has evolved into something else. Like how people interact with beer. That’s OK, but I’m more interested in the simpler question.)

In 1322, brewers in Dordrecht in the Netherlands made a hopped beer called hoppenbier and an unhopped fermented beverage called ael. Hoppenbier was likely a shocker. Perhaps even more so because Dutch brewers were trying to catch up with those damned imported hopped beers from Hamburg that tasted like nothing the locals had ever had. They may even have overshot their mark since they were still learning about hops. After all, the year before it was against the law for them to use hops in beer.

New things happen. Brewers may put coffee into beer, pumpkins, bog myrtle, acorns, and maybe even ground up shark’s teeth.

But Max will still be able to find a new světlý ležák to praise.

10 Responses to Beer has not jumped the shark

  1. Martyn Cornell December 7, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    I don’t believe beer, or even craft beer can jump the shark. Certain brewers/breweries/styles might, though.

  2. Steve December 7, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Bog myrtle?

    Off to Google… ahh, gruit.

  3. Sid Boggle December 7, 2011 at 7:18 am #

    I don’t think it’s beer either, I believe it’s beer ‘drinkers’. When scarcity is valued over quality, when small-batch brewers are lauded for the rarity of their stuff, even when it’s mediocre. What does the secondary market on eBay do for beer?

    Can beer jump the shark? I suppose it depends on your indigenous culture, your age, your preferences. I suppose some recent posts here in the UK could be umbrella’d under that heading viz. The New Keg and the approach of some of what Phil Lowry describes as ‘contemporary brewers’. Perhaps Martyn is on the right track with his observation…

  4. Pivní Filosof December 7, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    I haven’t read the thread, I know what my answer is already, very similar to Martyn’s and Sid’s.

    But regardless of that, for quite some time I’ve already been thinking about whether some brewers are getting themselves into a trap. In some cases they are celebrated not so much for the quality of their products but because they manage to come out with a new, rare beer every month or so. How long can they keep up with that until those beers start becoming a gimmick?

  5. Stan Hieronymus December 7, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Sid – Originally the last line of the post read, “Beers change. Beer doesn’t.”

    But I feared it would lead to a discussion about what constitutes change. Brewing without hops, then brewing with hops was kind of big. It changed pretty much all of beer (a hat tip to those few gruit ales out there).

  6. Mike December 7, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    There are some beery things I’d like to see jump the shark. Among them: extreme beers, beer geeks, the concept that experimentation is more important than quality, special one-day only beers and finally, anything that contributes to the misunderstanding or diminishing of the concept (and Stan’s rule#5): it’s only beer.

  7. Craig December 7, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I’ve always taken the phrase “Jump the shark” to mean the moment when something begins to decline in quality. Has craft beer done that? Granted, there are some beers (craft or otherwise) that are better than others, but hasn’t that always been the case?

  8. Mitch December 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I’ve heard a lot of people saying that IPA has jumped the shark now that The Hansens are releasing one called Mmmm Hop…

  9. Sam Tierney December 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    I think the phrase was only correctly applied to the idea that to some brewers (and many beer geeks), rarity, hype, and newness have become more important than quality. Many beer drinkers who are caught up with rare, hyped releases probably don’t even really know what quality even is in beer, they just know they are drinking a strongly flavored beer that most other people won’t get the chance to drink.

  10. Chris Quinn December 16, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    I’ll go ahead and say that in the Chicago market at least, the process of getting any number of season and/or special release beers has jumped the shark.

    Here in the windy city, if one wished to purchase one of these beers they must do the following:

    1. Scout Beer Advocate and Rate Beer for clues as to when the beer will be arriving.
    2. Call ahead to local Binny’s to see which day the beer will get landing.
    3. Place yourself on as many ‘pre-ordering’ lists as they can in hopes that one will pull through
    4. Take off work to go to a beer store when the beer finally arrives.

    I’ve missed out on the last two years of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout because I neglected to do the above….

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