Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Op-Ed GABF Article by Chris Vejnovich

I have been absent from GABF for about six years, and I’ll admit I am no longer – shall we say – “in the know.”  There are three main items that surprised me, and made me take a moment to ponder how things have changed in the craft beer world.

First and foremost, the expansion of the GABF categories nearly blew my mind.  It seems that a separate category for about any beer possible now exists.  You wanna make a barrel-aged fruit beer with bugs?  There is a category for it.  I feel like the expansion of the style categories will help individual breweries to carve out a niche in the market by differentiating themselves from other breweries.  But in contrast, I think that increasing the list of styles may only serve those brewers who are brewing to meet trends.  Of course, part of operating a business like a brewery is following trends and serving your public what they demand.  So, if your patrons demand a wood-aged tripel with Brettanomyces and dandilions…rock it!

Second, IPA is now the most popular style brewed!  This category had over 200 entries.  To win this category the beer must be outstanding.  It is great to see the IPA style so popular.  In Nebraska we are fortunate to have multiple options for the IPA drinker.  Ten years ago it was nearly impossible to find a Nebraska-based brewery who offered an IPA.  Unfortunately, popularity brings newcomers who are not producing the IPA style to the standard needed.  There were multiple brewers from across the country who were serving beers that lacked balance or drinkability, but rather an emphasis on being a funky hop bomb.  Ahem, the old American trend of, “if one is good, then ten has gotta be better”, was clearly evident in some of the beers served this year.

Third, wood-aged beers and sour beers were very popular.  The inclusion of Brettanomyces to lend character to the beer was very popular as well.  My pallet is pleased by a beer that uses Brettanomyces.  I am long-time lover of Orval.  The flavors that are produced by Brettanomyces are really nice.  During GABF, my favorite beer that included Brettanomyces was Seizon Bretta from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.  The beer was beautifully balanced and had just the right amount of bitterness and horsey flavors, which most beer enthusiasts contribute to a well-crafted Brett beer.  Could a Nebraska-produced Brett-beer be in the plans?  If it were brewed to the standard of the above mentioned, I would get out my wallet without hesitation.

Overall, I am excited about the U.S. craft beer scene.  In particular, how Nebraska is representing beer nationally.  Many folks at GABF would see the Nebraska Beer Blog shirts and would ask where to get great craft beer while traveling through Nebraska.  Cheers, to GABF and Nebraska brewers!

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