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Brace yourself: Extreme beers in the NY Times

Pouring an extreme beerEric Asimov prepares us: “My column in Wednesday’s paper is on American extreme beers, a topic that I think is fascinating whether you’re a beer drinker or not.”

We’ll find out more tomorrow, including what beers the New York Times panelists liked. (Here’s the link, and you must check out the photo.)

The place for comment then will be Asimov’s blog. As I type there is but one comment, from the constantly entertaining Fredric Koeppel, but this is a topic that should generate scores more.

How many do you think? 50? 100?

I’ll be content to sit back and read. We’ve already talked this to death in the beer blogosphere.

But words from Koeppel, Asimov and Michael Jackson nicely frame what will surely follow tomorrow.

From Koeppel: “In beer, wine and food, the elements of balance, harmony and integrity mean everything.”

From Jackson (in the introduction to Beer-Eyewitness Companions): “Tomorrow’s classics will evolve from a new breed of American brews that are categorized by their admirers as ‘Extreme Beers.’ These are the most intense-tasting beers ever produced anywhere in the world.”

And from Asimov (after all, it is his blog): “Beauty often springs from the creative dynamic between the Old and New Worlds, in which the tension between tradition and liberation holds it all together.”

(The photo at the top is believed to document the first pouring of a pre-Prohibition Double IPA, brewed with twice the flaked maize of a traditional pre-pro beer and four times the amount of Cluster hops.)

28 Responses to Brace yourself: Extreme beers in the NY Times

  1. Stonch January 8, 2008 at 6:12 pm #

    Stan, would the brewers of that “pre-Prohibition Double IPA” have referred to it as such? If so, why should we?

  2. Stan Hieronymus January 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm #

    That was typed tongue in cheek.

    Not only did we not have Double IPAs before Prohibition, we also didn’t have IPAs and had damn few PAs.

    Returning to the time before Prohibition would not be reliving any sort of Glory Days.

  3. jesskidden January 8, 2008 at 8:38 pm #

    Actually, I thought Stonch was also making a joke – whether a brewer, in 1900 would have referred to his beer as “Pre-Prohibition” and, if not, why should we?

    But, “we” (as in the US) did have a number of IPA’s in the pre-Prohibition era- certainly the most long-lived one (being resurrected after Repeal) being Ballantine’s, but a number of other East Coast brewers in Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere in New England brewed and marketed IPA’s, IIRC. Now, whether the rumor that those IPA’s were responsible for wiping out the NY State hop industry is true or not, I don’t know…

  4. Stan Hieronymus January 8, 2008 at 9:20 pm #

    Jess. A fair point. Since I was simply being flip, I should have just said “first pouring of an Extreme Double Maize beer.” Kinda dark for an IPA or Double IPA when you look at the photo.

  5. Stonch January 9, 2008 at 4:15 am #

    “That was typed tongue in cheek.”

    I look – and feel – stupid…

  6. Loren January 9, 2008 at 5:10 am #

    Truth is…old IPAs were actually as big and bitter as today’s Double/Imperial IPAs. ABV and IBU wise. Maybe not as hop aggressive since there was no Chinook or Columbus back then…but still…

    So this begs the question…is Double/Imperial IPA really a new creation? Nope.

  7. jesskidden January 9, 2008 at 5:15 am #

    Actually, I didn’t look close at the color of the beer- I was paying more attention to the unusual tap. I believe that photos dates from a consumer panel the brewing chemical company held for the invention of “Porterine”. They had some Polish girls come over while their husbands were down in the mines to sample a Pennsylvania porter brewed with the stuff added and asked “Does this taste the same as the porters you used to drink back home?”

    (Not noted in the official report was when one whispered to the other in Polish, “Yeah, right, like if we could have afforded to buy factory-brewed bottled beer back home we would have had to emigrant to a coal region and live in a mine-owned house…”).

  8. Stan Hieronymus January 9, 2008 at 6:35 am #

    I look – and feel – stupid…

    This is what happens with the cross-the-pond tongue-in-cheek references. Consider yourself lucky you don’t have our history with flaked maize.

  9. Stephen Beaumont January 9, 2008 at 7:00 am #

    Is it the University of Michigan that annually issues its list of the coming year’s forbidden words, or some other college? Whatever. I suggest that we start a brewing world list and place at the very top, underlined and in bold, “extreme beer.” I have personally banished the phrase from my writing, unless it is encased in quotation marks or preceded by the modifier “so-called.”

  10. Stan Hieronymus January 9, 2008 at 7:36 am #

    A great idea. Maybe even a New Beer Rule.

  11. jesskidden January 9, 2008 at 7:55 am #

    Part of one’s objection to “extreme” might be the fad/cultural aspects of the term and, as with similar terms, such objection could just be an example of one’s age (I confess mine is).

    Over on another beer forum, they deleted one of my posts when I (humorously, I thought) took issue with the term “slamming” being used positively (the poster was “slamming” Two-Hearted Ale because it was “the best”- huh?). I also noted that I found using “sick” as a synonym for “great” (especially for beer) to be confusing- “This beer tastes SICK!”

    Oh, yeah…I’ll just have water…

  12. SteveH January 9, 2008 at 8:31 am #

    “I also noted that I found using “sick” as a synonym for “great” (especially for beer) to be confusing- ‘This beer tastes SICK!'”

    I wonder where Pete’s Wicked Ale would stand within these new-fangled slang terms?

    Personally, I’ve discovered that “extreme” when used in any connotation, beer especially, elicits and immediate Pavlovian reaction from me in the form of a huge eye-roll. 🙂

  13. Stan Hieronymus January 9, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    My problem with the term “extreme beer” – nd I’m repeating myself – is that I’m not sure it conveys any meaning. I wrote this for AABM back in 2006:

    Does the phrase extreme beer scare you?

    Do you feel like you should strap on roller blades, a crash helmet and head down a steep ramp with an extreme beer in hand – emerging on the other side of a deep trough with beer flying in the air as you chase it with your tongue wagging?

    So Jess brings up an important point (and SteveH drives it home).

    There’s a generation of beer drinkers who are the children of the generation to revived “micro” brewing. This generation talks different, thinks different and drinks different.

  14. mallace January 9, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    To understand what goes on in my head when I hear the word “extreme”, one must watch the convenience-store kayaking scene from “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”. By the way, if you haven’t yet read the Times article, it’s quite good. Eric Asimov long ago earned my deepest respect, and the fact that Garrett Oliver and Phil Markowski are co-panelists only lends the article more credence.

  15. Stan Hieronymus January 9, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    Mallace – Both the article and the blog post are excellent. I’m surprised there aren’t more comments.

    But to be fair they might have put one “hophead” on the panel.

  16. brendan January 9, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    I see extreme and think of inane Mountain Dew commercials… But a lot of that is regional difference in speech patterns/slang.

  17. mallace January 10, 2008 at 5:37 am #

    Stan–in a way, I’m glad they DIDN’T have a hophead on the panel, someone who might be swayed by an overly ga-ga attitude toward IBUs or ABV. I like both Garrett and Phil because their beers and beer sensibilities are refined and sane, regardless of style. Then again, an occasional lupulosis sufferer like Vinnie Cilurzo would alwyas be welcome…

  18. SteveH January 10, 2008 at 6:08 am #

    “I like both Garrett and Phil because their beers and beer sensibilities are refined and sane, regardless of style.”

    I’m surprised (all things considered) at the hits the article and reviewers are taking in a thread at BeerAdvocate — lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  19. Stephen Beaumont January 10, 2008 at 6:55 am #

    I just scrolled through the exhausting debate at BA, most of which, it’s worth noting, is composed of the back-and-forthing of three or four people. Basically it boils down to two camps: Those who value balance in beer and those who like a big, hoppy punch. Lord knows there are enough brands out there to fill the boots of both audiences, so the whole thing essentially boils down to semantics and preference.

    One other thing, though: Did anyone notice that the photo of tattooed dude which accompanied the original article showed him opening what was clearly a bottle of Brooklyn Lager? The shot has since been cropped (or changed) so that the bottle is less visible.

  20. Stan Hieronymus January 10, 2008 at 8:10 am #

    mallace – hophead was the wrong word (my bad). There’s still a lot more interesting and new going on west of I-25 than east in terms of using hops to interesting new flavors and aromas (forget the 100-plus IBU nonsense – never seen that proved).

    Some of the exciting stuff is not Imperial beers, but “simple” IPAs like Caldera IPA and beers from other breweries East Coasters never heard of, like Green Flash.

    After you sample a range of such beers (and failed efforts) you better appreciate what is possible. But this was a article about beers you could go out and buy in New York, so I’m not complaining. Just wishing.

  21. mallace January 10, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    Stan–No worries about “hophead”–I for one occasionally like a beer so hoppy it makes me sneeze. I’m in Philadelphia, more or less the same beer market as NYTimes. In one way I feel lucky I can dash out to Victory and pick up a growler of HopWallop (not to mention the 2-year old V Saison I got the other week…swooning…swooning), and I was lucky enough to be gifted a bottle of the first batch of Double Simcoe from Weyerbacher before it was even released (chatting with brewers at beer festivals can do great things…). But then again, I envy you Westerners and your Russian Rivers and Lagunitases. It’s great these beers are being well-made all over the place, both by well-known brewers, the small brewers, and even homebrewers.
    One other thing, Stan: please tell me the wheat beer book you said you’re going to be working on will be in the same series as BLAM. Not to be cheesy or sycophantic, but BLAM changed my life.

  22. Stan Hieronymus January 10, 2008 at 9:43 am #

    The wheat book also will be from Brewers Publications, but it won’t be an extension of the Belgian (Farmhouse, Wild Brews, BLAM) series. I do think Brew Like a Baker would make a nice name. [Tom Baker probably does, too.]

    I’m a little intimidated adding to the work Eric Warner has done, because his German Wheat Beer book is one of the best in the BP style series, but he’s said it needs updating, he doesn’t have the time and somebody has to do it.

    Hard to believe, but the three books in the Belgian series never touched about Belgian whites (witbiers).

    Certainly looking forward to going to Hoegaarden, Bavaria, Leipzig (gose), Portland and other locations these beers became what they are.

  23. SteveH January 10, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    Stan, you touched on going to the HB Las Vegas, did you sample the Weizen there? I like to tell the story of my first trip to Munich and the HB, back in my youthful drinking days…when I ordered a Maß of Weizen! I’ll never forget the look on the Oper’s face, but he brought the Maß…and I drank it!

  24. Stan Hieronymus January 10, 2008 at 11:35 am #

    Didn’t have it in Vegas. Had the Double Bock and the Dunkel.

    Did have the Weizen in Munich – does that count?

  25. Lew Bryson January 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    “…other breweries East Coasters never heard of, like Green Flash.”

    Forsooth, Stan, the Grey Lodge has Green Flash beers on two or three times a month. If it can be got, we get it.

  26. Stan Hieronymus January 10, 2008 at 7:29 pm #

    Forsooth, Stan, the Grey Lodge has Green Flash beers on two or three times a month.

    I already knew Scoats was way cooler than the NY Times. This just confirms it.

  27. SteveH January 10, 2008 at 8:06 pm #

    Did have the Weizen in Munich – does that count?

    …one, two, three..

    Yeah I’d say that counts. But, was it from a Maß? 😉

  28. Stan Hieronymus January 11, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    No mas(s).

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