Beer is the new juice

Craft beer’s mullet


The craft beer trend of fruity beer must stop.

By Tom Morgan

 

We are living in tumultuous times, my friends. And I’m not talking politically, I’m talking in regard to craft beer. Never have opposing sides of the beer world been so intimately aligned. We’ve all got our secret shames, those skeletons we hide in the closet, those desires to dabble and experiment. I get that, really, I do. But craft beer’s current dalliances are a bit ridiculous, even by my standards. This current collusion is—cueing my best faux-Simpsons Comic Book Guy voice—the worst trend ever. And, much like our current political conditions, alas, I don’t think this trend is going away any time soon.

The trend I’m talking about is the “juiceification” of beer. Basically, beer is dressed up to look and taste like juice. Just like the mullet is the mystical crossover space between hipsters and NASCAR fans, craft beer’s embrace of juice and fruit has created the space for a similar set of odd alliances between beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers. Specifically, I am talking about Northeast IPAs—those hazy, murky hop juice bombs with little to no actual bitterness—and fruited goses—which use copious amounts of fruit to cover over the salty tang and lactic bite that defines the style. NEIPAs and fruited goses are the mullets of the craft beer world: these two styles have come to represent the delightful point of contact between people who like beer and people who don’t like beer.

I know what you’re thinking. I can almost hear it turning over in your mind. “Hey, such bi-partisanship can’t be all bad, can it? Not if it is bringing people together!” Honestly, I don’t think the two sides realize this is happening. This is not your James Carville and Mary Matalin, opposites attract scenario. Basically, craft beer nerds are so desperately chasing trends that they don’t seem to realize they’ve run smack-dab into embracing beer-fearing Zima drinkers. Have you no shame, beer nerds? Where is your snooty elitism and smarmy, patronizing condescension now? Or has all that juice gone to your heads? I wish there was some awareness or some irony here. Even some faux irony. That would help. But sadly, no. As with the mullet, both sides seem decidedly unaware of their publicly-visible and yet completely unacknowledged liaison.

And craft brewers? I get the need to chase broad market appeal and follow the latest and greatest crazes to meet the bottom line. But the “juiceification” of beer seems more like pandering to the lowest common denominator. By which I mean, following the behavior of macro-breweries and putting profit over product. You want to know what craft brewing chasing trends for profit looks like? See Sam Adams, with its embrace of hard, alcoholic flavored drinks. Puh-lease. Ain’t nothing craft about Twisted Tea. At least NEIPAs and fruited goses contain actual beer ingredients.

I mean, I like juice, but I like juice as juice, not beer. Next thing you know, I’ll be served my beer in a sippy cup. I seriously think I saw a beer can with a “pulp-free” sticker on the side. Hell, if brewers were to throw caffeine into either of these beers, we’d pretty much be drinking the craft version of Four Loko. Like for real. But that is a rant for another time. At least when craft beer was in an arms race to elevate bitterness to absurd levels, it wasn’t chasing trends that Joe Sixpack could embrace with glee: “I don’t normally like beer, but these new, fruity beers are something else!” Facepalm.

Craft beer has jumped the shark before. Just not so hard. I mean, we have a strip club brewery outside Dayton, right, so how much lower can “craft” beer go while chasing the almighty dollar? For the record, I am intentionally ignoring the ludicrous Brewers Association campaign to “Take Back Craft” when I ask that question. After all, it’s the place that keeps telling me Sam Adams is still staunchly craft. Yeah, right. Regardless, craft beer should survive this moment. After all, fancy, gourmet coffee made it through the flavored coffee craze. But the longer that craft beer courts being the swill of the non-beer drinker, the more quickly it loses its claim to difference. And I mean that both as a product and as an idea. You can be Pliny, you can be PBR, or you can be some monstrous fruit booze bomb, but you can’t be all things for all people all the time. So please stop trying so hard. And beer nerds? Snap out of it! 

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Reach DCP freelance writer Tom Morgan at TomMorgan@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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