Again with the Black Whatever

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted a tongue-in-cheek link noting the new “black kölsch” just released from the St. Arnold Brewing Company of Texas, and saying that somewhere Ron “Shut Up About Barclay Perkins” Pattinson was popping a blood vessel. (Just joking, Ron. I sincerely hope you weren’t.)

Turn out, it wasn’t Ron who threw a wobbler, but Velky Al. And I’ve got to add, with good reason. Al does note that there is a convention governing what may be called a kölsch, and that even though the U.S. is not bound by said convention, it is, like those governing Champagne and Bordeaux, a matter of respect to do so. More broadly, he duly observes that there is nothing in the convention about a beer being black.

Without getting bent out of shape about it — it is Friday, after all — I must agree wholeheartedly with not just Al’s words, but also what I infer is the sentiment behind them, specifically this obsession with defining new styles and “innovations,” even is such things involve only the addition of a bit of black malt. As Jon Stewart might say, “Brewers, come over and meet me at camera three.”

Listen, I understand that you want to make your beers stand out and that, in the wake of the “black IPA” juggernaut that is sweeping the land, using the word “black” in front of pretty much any traditionally blonde or amber style is one way to do it. But in so doing you are forgetting that the vast majority of the beer drinking populace doesn’t yet know all of the basic beer styles, much less the 100+ offshoots recognized by the Association of Brewers today. Thus, creating more styles, especially faux styles like “black kölsch,” makes matters more confusing for the beer buying public. In short, you’re not clarifying, you’re confounding!

I like new beers. I like weird beers. I like challenging beers. What I don’t like is the seemingly irrepressible need of some, perhaps most craft brewers to create a new beer “style” with every release.

14 Replies to “Again with the Black Whatever”

  1. Steve, in New York recently I had a White IPA. Best as I could tell, it was a wheat beer style, Belgian-type I think, with American hopping evident. On the strong side too. I believe it was from a New York- area brewery, but I can’t recall the name now. Excellent product.

    I’m all for this, bring it on, what is good will stick (Black IPA, Pumpkin Stout, Bourbon Imperial Stout) what is gimmicky won’t. Producers need novelty, or what seems to be novelty, to help sell products, it’s a good thing.

    Everything classic was new once – like porter and IPA…


    1. I have nothing whatsoever against the kind of beers you describe, Gary. I recently has a Strong Belgian-style white beer from Boulevard’s Smokestack Series that I thought was delicious. Bring it on, indeed.

      What irks me is the need to create a new style with every beer. I truly believe it just confuses the average drinker and does nothing to move matters forward.

  2. I rooted around a little and found the beer: Blue Point White IPA. 6% ABV. Special release for the 13th anniversary of the place.


    1. Gary,

      I have no problem with the beer per se, indeed from the sound of Saint Arnold’s Santo, it sounds just the kind of beer I like – except for the bloody stupid idea of a black kolsch.

      Imagine Fullers coming out with a London Pale Porter – it would be ludicrous. It is these daft juxtapositions of “black” with a traditionally pale beer style that annoy me.

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