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Low-Hop Beers: First Trend of 2011?

I read a blog recently that chastened writers that if you are tempted to write a headline where the answer is “no,” then don’t write it. The good news is that the answer to my headline here is, “I don’t know.” I suppose I should heed the warning anyway, but I’ve never been one for taking good advice.

Earlier this morning Jack Curtain linked to the press release on The Big G, a “pale oat ale” with just “a touch of hops…” but “…no perceivable bitterness. Basically, it’s breakfast in a glass.”

I haven’t had the beer yet (how could I?) so I have no idea how big the grain of salt is that I should take with “no perceivable bitterness.” My read on it is that it need not be very big at all. The purpose of this beer seems to have been to make something that tips the scales toward the sweet side.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, not at all. There’s all kinds of room under my beer umbrella.

My question is whether or not beers like the Big G might be the trend to look out for this year.

We’ve already started to see a trend back toward small beer; and most geek circles have a strong contingent of folk who adamantly demand sessionable ales. The trend toward lower ABVs is, I think, a regression to the mean of sorts after the “extreme beer” phenomenon. I don’t think that extreme beers are gone, or that they should be. Three Floyds and Dogfish Head are still out there, and you can count me in among their fans. They’re extreme brewers. Sam Calagione has his own show for goodness sake that accentuates his extremity and speaks to the popular approval of his method. And most of the “top beers” on Beer Advocate are imperial or double stouts, which are basically extreme beers with historical roots.

But drinkers are learning that there’s goodness on the other end of the spectrum too.

If extreme beers are marked by high alcohol content and extreme levels of bitterness (Randall the Enamel Animal, anyone?) then along with lower ABV we might see a regression toward sweeter ales as well.

The Big G is both.

The other thing to keep in mind here, is that Americans love sweet. Some of you may remember the campaign against “bitter beer” that Keystone Light launched a bit ago.

So a beer like the Big G may be that perfect kind of crossover beer for non-beer drinkers, inoffensive, sweet and made with an alternative grain so that “it doesn’t even taste like beer.” Hell, by some standards, it isn’t beer. Those standards are not my standards, but à chacun son goût, as they say.

I’ve never tried my hand at this sort of trend prediction, so don’t put too much stock in this. However, if you start to see a lot of low abv, sweet beers, well, you read it here first!

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Posted in Jack Curtain, Pale Oat Ale, The Big G.