National Review / Digital
Hype and Hops
Two generations of beer fads


That was Beer Hype 1.0. We now live in the age of Beer Hype 2.0. Beer Hype 2.0 is Beer Hype 1.0 turned upside down. Whereas the beer of Beer Hype 1.0 was mass-produced to appeal to the tastes of the working class (and remains to that class’s taste in the form of Bud, Miller, and their unspeakable “lite” versions), the beer of Beer Hype 2.0 is “microbrewed” in tiny factories to appeal to the Stuff White People Like crowd. While the beer of Beer Hype 1.0 was laughably under-flavored, the beer of Beer Hype 2.0 days is — frighteningly over-flavored. The idea seems to be that powerful “notes” of some eccentric beer ingredient — black malt or hops overload or whatever — will serve to distinguish the discerning palates of the SWPL set from the trailer-trash tastes of Those Other White People from whom SWPLs are obsessed with setting themselves apart. Thus was born — in 1980 or so — the era of beer snobbery.

Like all forms of snobbery, beer snobbery is highly susceptible to another syndrome: The Emperor Has No Clothes. The first microbrew fad was for stout. That fad passed quickly, because it was hard to pass off as a gourmet treat the acrid undertaste, the raw-sewage color resulting from the black-malt infusions, and the creepily viscous texture of the “craft” stouts, porters, and Guinness clones that surged out of the fermenters of the weensy new breweries. After all, the original Guinness is loathsome enough. The rage now is for India pale ales featuring more hops than the Easter Bunny at the White House Easter Egg Roll. News flash for all you who aspire to be the Miles “No Effing Merlot” of microbrews: IPAs were the Brew 102 of their time and place of invention, Victorian England, where resourceful brewers in Old Blighty figured out that their beer would survive the long sea voyage to the yobbos serving as troops and bureaucrats in the Jewel of the Crown as long as they pumped up the hops ratio past all standards that had previously prevailed. The problem: The aftertaste of a typical microbrewed IPA, simultaneously bitter and sour, lingers in your mouth until you get around to brushing your teeth the next morning. Not all microbrews are lousy, but enough of them merely taste . . . strong enough to give the whole genre a bad name.

December 16, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 23

  • An elegy for Appalachia.
  • International law will not make them humane.
  • A look at an extraordinary prison in Texas.
Cigars & Drink
Books, Arts & Manners
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .