As we head towards the second half of 2015, craft beer is everywhere. The rise of “craft beer culture” in Australia has tended to follow the American model, with lots of big hoppy IPAs and endless limited-edition brews to attract novelty hunters and “tickers”. I’m hoping it’ll settle down at some point but right now it seems that everyone with a redundancy and a mate who’s into homebrew is growing their beards and starting a brewery. Most of them start with a pale ale and maybe a second “basic” beer (an amber, golden or pilsener) which taste pretty much the same as everyone else’s, and then start getting into silly territory in order to try and stand out. It becomes very wearing to hear of yet another super-strong black DIPA/saison hybrid with added durian that is coming in a limited edition to a bottlo near you, or a “tap takeover” at some trendy Surry Hills pub where a brewery shows that they can do lots of different beers to a reassuringly mediocre standard. Not to mention the dreaded “collaboration brews” where brewing mates/rivals egg each other on to produce the most ridiculous concoctions they think they can get away with.
In the face of all this “choice”, I’ve actually started to reduce the number of new beers I try, as I’ve been burned too often. I stick to ones that I know will deliver the right taste, at the right time. And, truth be told, most of my choices now are imports. There’s a reason why the likes of Orval and Schlenkerla are classics: the brewers concentrate on no more than a handful of beers (in Orval’s case, only one) and take the time and effort to make sure they stay excellent year after year, a lesson Australian craft brewers should heed if they want their business to last beyond the current years of peak craft beer. When you see craft brewers introducing a cider or two into their range (and it’s happening) you know that the end is nigh.