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Friday, January 6, 2012

Big Trend for 2011? Event Craziness

I've been reading a lot of year-in-review posts on various blogs. We all feel the need to share what we think were the most significant developments of 2011. Ezra posted a review in photos over on The New School blog and Jeff shared his view of the trends on the Beervana blog. All well and good.

While I'd love to talk about the growing popularity of barrel-aged beers or the changing pallet of Oregon beer drinkers, it seems to me the runaway trend for 2011 was the frenetic number of special events that graced the calendar all year long. Seriously off the hook.

One of many

I've mentioned this before. The pace of events and special beer releases got to the point last year that most of us couldn't keep up. There was talk of event fatigue as summer waned and the beer scene became a blur. Things didn't slow much into the fall.

I leave it to readers to decide if the virtual tsunami of special events, brewer's tastings, mini-festivals, etc., is good for the craft industry. I realize the power of social media is growing and that breweries and beer fans feel the need to use it. Everyone wants to promote their brand. However, I think there's a bit of ADHD involved.

One more...

One of the offshoots of the special event craze is that everyone feels the need to brew special beers for these things. This has gone far beyond the seasonal concept. Breweries are producing special beers often with eclectic ingredients and unrefined recipes to support special events.

All these special beers, whether they are summer beers, fresh hop beers or strong winter beers, typically share the fact that they are produced for events. It is no longer cool to pour one of your house beers at a special event. Nope. You've got to create excitement and buzz by creating something truly unique and possibly reckless. Toss in some pumpkin rind, cloves, vanilla beans, coffee beans, peppermint, bacon, wet hops, cranberries, chilies, dandelions, etc. Whatever it takes.

And one more

Let me digress for a moment. On a recent road trip, I visited several breweries. These are all well-known establishments with great beer lists. My conclusion was that the standard house beers were far more refined than the seasonal offerings.

I started thinking about it. Why wouldn't that be the case? Brewers spend a lot of time and effort refining their house beers...often over many years or decades. Seasonal beers don't generally get the same sort of attention. Gee, I wonder where special event beers appear on the priority list?

So our ADHD-inspired special event calendar may well be creating a playground for experimental brewing, but the beers produced are not always particularly good. In fact, my experience is that the beers are often half-baked and not ready for prime time. I'll let you decide the meaning of this.

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