Here is a wonderful paragraph posted this weekend by Ron Pattinson at Shut up about Barclay Perkins:
Honest beer is what I want. Beer that can look me straight in the eye and not flinch. Beer with heart. Beer that’s like an old friend. Beer you can sit and drink by the pint in a pub with your mates.
Pattinson writes about an epiphany he experienced while beer touring in Franconia: “The beers that I liked the best were the simplest.”
Makes perfect sense to me. The connection between the simple lives Trappist monks lead and simplicity of their beer recipes was apparent when I did the research for Brew Like a Monk.
Their beers – noted for their complexity – are Exhibit A that “Less is more.”
Simple is good. Simple is often the best choice. But, for the record, it isn’t the only choice.
European brewers are sometimes appalled when they look at the grain (and hop) bills of new wave American beers or – yikes! – efforts to duplicate continental classics. I’ve had interesting discussions about this with both commercial and home brewers (here’s one with Jamil Zainasheff) about this and even those who favor simple sometimes find something with more moving parts turns out better.
I’m don’t contend that complicated automatically results in complex, but I disagree with Pattinson when he writes: “A lot of microbrewed beer now seems frivolous to me. Like pretentious nouvelle cuisine. Too complicated for its own good.” And his conclusion: “Take a look at the beer in your glass. What is it? Honest, or a wee bit pretentious?”
Complicated is not a synonym for pretentious any more than simple is, well, simple.