First, the housekeeping. I haven’t been posting much during March and I don’t expect that situation to change much in April. Or May, for that matter. This has to do with a bunch of projects that all converge over the next sixty days or so, including the new book I’m co-writing with Tim Webb, a consulting job to develop a new bar-restaurant on the Toronto waterfront and a number of events I’ll be hosting, like the whisky tasting I have coming up April 7 at the Monk’s Table — call (416) 920-7037 for info and tickets — and the Great South Beer Cup in Buenos Aires.
So while I will do my best to keep things interesting in this space, I can promise nothing. Sorry.
Now, the Great Disconnect. Like many other beer scribes, I recently attended the remarkably large — almost 4,000 attendees strong! — Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco last week. And like most if not all of my peers, I was amazed at the energy and enthusiasm on display there. This craft beer thing, in case you haven’t noticed, is red hot.
One of the things I felt to be of particular note, however, is the gap that is developing between the committed beerophile and the average, ordinary beer drinker. Take sour beers, for instance. At what must have been one of the most popular seminars of the event, a standing room only crowd crammed a large ballroom to hear Vinnie Cilurzo, Jean Van Roy and Yvan De Baets talk about what have become known as “sour beers,” or in other words, beers affected by certain yeasts and bacteria, notably Brettanomyces, which contribute a tart and often fruity flavour. Sour beers, in case you haven’t noticed, are the latest craze in US craft beer circles.
Thing is, while sour sells in craft beer land, most restaurateurs, bar managers and patrons will look at you askance, to say the least, when you start talking about sour beers. To them, sour means bad, and bad ain’t good. (I know this because I do a lot of work with the hospitality industry in the United States.) Hell, for the most part, they’re still trying to get their heads around hoppy!
Now, I’m not saying this is a bad situation or something the craft brewing industry needs to rein in. Craft beer has always been led by styles and flavours the general public doesn’t understand, from the cascade hop to fruit beers, and whether it’s sour beer trends or the barrel aging of beer, I see no reason to stop now. But as we craft beer consumers continue to get all hot and bothered over the latest sour this or tart that, and more brewers join the stampede to acidified fermentation, it’s probably wise to bear in mind that the public, that great morass of drinkers trailing our leading edge, are still largely wondering what in hell we’re talking about.