Back in the 90’s there was the first round of craft beer experimentation in America. In Northern California, it produced Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, Sudwerks in Davis, and a handful of brewpubs in the Sacramento area. They all, generally speaking, produced a similar line-up of brews. Pilsners, lagers, stouts, pale ales, an IPA here or here, a red ale, and that was about it. They varied from malty to hoppy and combinations in between.
Fast forward to a few years ago and craft beer experimentation exploded into a thing. That handful of brewpubs has turned into over 70 craft brewers operating tasting rooms in the Sacramento area. Sierra Nevada, the grand-daddy of them all, is still churning out some of the best, most creative beers around. Sudwerks is still making beer, although they shut their restaurant down.
The different with this latest renaissance is that it started off by being all about the hops. IPAs morphed into Northeast IPAs, San Diego IPAs, Hazy IPAs, and then double IPAs and even triple IPAs. Go to any craft brewer these days and you struggle to find the “traditional” line up of beers that used to be the thing.
I’m not necessarily complaining, but I miss the days of beers that are a balance of malty and hoppy and being able to drink a beer without wondering just how much bitter a beer can get. I love the craft beer renaissance and the many options that exist around virtually every corner. But, the hoppiness can get a little old.
(and don’t get me started on the latest craze — sours. I’ve got one word for sours — UGH!!!)
It was nice then to spend some time in Europe where the hoppy craze hasn’t seemed to take hold. It’s still about the pilsner and basic lagers. Every restaurant had them and that was the focus. We ate at a couple of places that made their own beer and their line up was like the 90’s craft beer lineup. A pilsner, a lager, a stout, maybe a pale ale or an IPA. And that was about it. The one pale ale I had while I was in Europe wasn’t close to as hoppy as the thing would be here in California. And I didn’t get anywhere close to an IPA in Europe — why? Europe is the land of pilsner. And it was good, no matter whether I was in Berlin, Prague or Vienna.
Ok … back to the land of IPAs.