The cheery headline at the News & Observer in North Carolina’s Triangle reads: Beer brewing bursts with new diversity. However, by the end we get cautionary words from Charlie Bamforth, chair of the department of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis, as well as the university’s Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science.
How many different beers are being made is anyone’s guess, but Bamforth isn’t happy with the growing number. He’d rather the trade stick to a few traditional styles of beer and explore variety within each, taking advantage of different regimes of hops and malts but avoiding the array of other ingredients and techniques being used today.
“I wish brewers would stay with a limited number of beer styles, and make the most of those, like the wine guys have done with their red, white and pink wines,” Bamforth says. “Let’s make ales, and then celebrate diversity within the ales, like with different hops. Let’s stop looking for the exotic.”
Loosen up, Charlie.
Yes, small-batch, and not-so-small, brewers need to keep their eye on the quality control ball – a common concern European brewers seem to express when they see a brewery or brewpub cooking up 30 or more different recipes over the course of a year. And we sure as heck shouldn’t rush to define any new styles (as in Imperial Hefeweizen).
But last year Will Meyers and assistant Megan Parisi cranked out 21 batches of a pumpkin ale at Cambridge Brewing in Massachusetts, each time spending about three hours prepping organic pumpkins for the mash. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what Anheuser-Busch and Coors will sell in the way of pumpkin beer this year, but it represents what makes Cambridge – and small-batch brewers – different.
That’s one example. You readers – and perhaps Prof. Bamforth if he’d admit it – probably have a few of your own.