The incessant influx of novelty – The session #68

The Session

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

This month, 99 Pours hosts the session with the theme Novelty Beers, announcing:

With the onslaught of even weirder beards… erm… beers… than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.” We’ve even seen some novelty beers in our top-sellers. But beer traditionalists sometimes frown on these new and bizarre concoctions.

What novelty beer comes to mind when you think: Is this beer just to strange to stay around? Why in the world would they choose ingredients most beer drinkers have never heard of …what the heck is a qatar fruit? If it’s okay for beer to taste like tea or coffee, why not pizza? If wild yeasts are allowed to ferment beer, then why not beard yeast? If oysters, why not bacon? If pumpkin’s good enough for pie, why not beer? Since hops are flowers, why not brew with actual flowers?

Here are my thoughts:

“There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dulness.”

– Henry David Thoreau

If novelty beers counter dull beers, then I’m all for them. Brewing beer with hops was once a novelty. If novelty now drives the cultivation of new hop varieties, it must be a good thing. I can’t imagine a summer without a Citra hopped beer now, yet this was a novelty beer to me just a few years ago. Similarly, I viewed Black IPAs with suspician when I first came across them, but now some rank amongst my favourite beers. Novelty beers at least offer variety – I’ll try an ale brewed with Bogmyrtle and infused with flowering heather, over a Bud Light any day. But then how new and unusual are novelty beers?

There is no new thing under the sun

– Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

If Williams are ‘the only brewery still producing this unique style of beer’ then Heather Ale is a novelty beer of sorts, but Williams date the recipe back four thousand years. This week’s stout made with bulls testicles isn’t really such a novelty – when Stuart Howe of Sharp’s Brewery made a beer with offal a couple of years ago, Zytophile referred to Mercers Meat Stout, while Peter Brissenden pointed to a 17th century ‘Cock Ale‘. All manner of meats, insects, herbs and spices have been added to beer over the centuries, ‘it hath been already of old time’.

Beer as novelty gift

But if by novelty beers we mean those beers that appear at Christmas Markets, with names like Cat’s Pee Pale Ale and Bullshit Bitter, aimed at people looking for ‘amusing’ gifts, there I draw the line. I tasted a variety of such beers from one supplier and when they advertise proudly they’re the ‘WORST BEERS IN THE WORLD, EVER!’ they are not joking – each beer got poured after the first sip. They are to creativity what cliffs are to lemmings.

Has anybody brewed a beer with lemmings? If they did, I guess everyone else would soon follow…

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7 responses to “The incessant influx of novelty – The session #68

  1. Novelty is all a matter of perspective. I actually think that craft beer is still a novelty concept to most of the world.

  2. Pingback: 99 Pours » Blog Archive » The Session #68 Round-Up: Novelty Beers

  3. I have to agree with you. When I first tried the Chicory Stout from DFH 17 years ago, that was indeed a novelty beer in most people’s eyes. If a so called novelty beer comes in at high quality then to me it is more experimental but as you declared with the Holiday beers, most tend to be more gimmicky and therefoer a novelty beer. Good perspective.

    • I like that distinction of experimental (high quality) vs. gimmicky. Though to be honest, I’ve never tried a Chicory Stout so it would be a novelty to me too 😉

  4. Maybe Thoreau was bored because he lived in the woods and sported a scraggly neck beard. Nice post.

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