Heady Topper

Today’s Debate Topic: Is Your Beer Overrated?

Deadspin’s Will Gordon, who writes about adult beverages, has decided to rattle a few cages with his list of 18 overrated beers. He cautions that “overrated” beers aren’t necessarily bad, but “they’re not as good as their ubiquity on reputable beer menus or their cult status will have you believe.”

After going after obvious targets like Blue Moon, Killian’s Red, and Corona, Gordon ventures into more dangerous territory. He calls Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale “generic strong ale overdosed with vanilla,” and complains that Magic Hat, the makers of #9, “seems to be more interested in marketing than brewing.” He pooh-poohs the idea of waiting in line to buy Heady Topper, which is “only marginally better than Dogfish Head 90 Minute,” and dismisses North Coast Old Rasputin as “not as transcendent as its reputation suggests.”

Gordon’s most intriguing comment is about your local brewery’s flagship ale. He says, “In most cases, the beer that put a brewery on the map way back when—even if way back when was two years ago—has since been surpassed in-house. They may need to keep the sales workhorse around to keep the ship afloat, but the brewers themselves know that they’ve gotten better at their craft since creating that first hit recipe.”

At last count, Gordon’s article has attracted nearly 1,000 comments.

A Craft Beer Bubble?

America has never had more breweries than it has today, and the quality of beer at your local bar has never been better. But will the good times last? Some observers think the craft-brewing industry is in the midst of a classic bubble that might be about to burst.

Noah Davis of Business Insider points that for every Alchemist, brewers of the wildly successful Heady Topper double IPA, “there are numerous small breweries turning out solid product that will never see a profit.” Davis wonders how the hundreds of breweries that opened this year, not to mention another 1,500 in the planning stages, are going to find distributors, get shelf space, and sign up tap accounts. The newcomers, he adds, are entering a craft beer market that is dominated by a few big players.

Industry figures believe the days of double-, and even triple-digit growth won’t last much longer. John Laffler, who opened a craft brewery in Chicago last year, said, “I see the industry becoming more local, more regional, more city-specific. At that point, you’re locked in making $35,000 a year and hopefully your business can last 10 years.”

Some startups might not survive. According to Greg Koch, the founder of Stone Brewing Company, “You can expect that consumer fatigue will show up again, just like it did in 1996. It’s like a school of fish. It will turn, but you don’t know when.” The industry shakeout of the late 1990s resulted in some 300 brewery closures.

The Friday Mash (Rebellion Edition)

On this day in 1837, Canadian journalist and politician William Lyon Mackenzie wrote an essay calling for a rebellion against the United Kingdom. During the 1990s, the Upper Canada Brewing Company honored him with an ale called “Rebellion.”

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Hyde Park, Utah, whose heavily Mormon population voted nearly 2-to-1 to allow beer sales. The town’s mayor said it was the most emotional issue he’s ever seen.

Spain’s Catalonia has its own language, customs, and cuisine. If brewery owner Alex Padro has its way, it will soon have its own beer as well.

Sonoma County, California, the birthplace of modern craft brewing, boasts 20 craft breweries. The breweries have a significant economic impact, and have become a tourist attraction.

Heady Topper, a double IPA made by The Alchemist brewery, is so popular that the brewery’s owners had to close their retail store after neighbors complained about rowdy customers.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the California Route Lager. It’s a California common beer made by the New Belgium Brewing Company.

Garrett Oliver talked with the New York Times about his favorite places to drink beer in Sweden. Oliver has teamed up with Carlsberg to start The New Carnegie Brewery in Stockholm.

Finally, two men are raising funds on Kickstarter.com for The Beer Tusk, a device for those who like to “shotgun” their beers. It’s safer than a key, and less likely to make the beer backsplash.

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