Got Beer? Hoppy Holidays

One of the great pleasures of the modern craft beer era is the wonderful and endless variety of different styles made by different breweries with different inspirations and techniques. I have very fond memories of finding in seasonal mix-packs something I’d never tried before.

So it was with the early days of good craft beer. Samuel Adams had their staple lineup, for better or worse, as most people couldn’t get rid of the cranberry lambic until June. Sierra Nevada, Magic Hat, Long Trail and other early pioneers would create some truly wonderful malty treats for the holiday season, and usually take the time to throw in an experiment or two to see how it worked out. And to this day, I look forward to seeing what new, interesting, inspired experimental brews are waiting for me in those blessed cardboard 12 packs.

Rather, I should say, until this very day.

As I perused the selections, I found myself extremely disappointed. Long Trail mix pack – four different beers, three of which are IPAs. Otter Creek, four different beers, three are IPAs. I think we’re stretching the definition of the term ‘variety pack,’ just a little bit.

Magic Hat's Night of the Living Dead Variety Pack

Magic Hat’s Night of the Living Dead Variety Pack

Now I love a good IPA as much as the next man, probably more so. But I’ll again refer to the term ‘variety,’ in these mix packs. Three IPAs isn’t variety. I have nothing against these particular beers, or even IPAs, but for the love of all that’s jolly and merry, can I please have a porter? A stout? A nut brown? I’ll even accept a lambic at this point just to have some actual variety.

I’ve talked about hop palate fatigue before, but I wonder if the big craft brewers aren’t trying to saturate the market with IPAs at this point, as if intentionally trying to push hops down everyone’s throat because even the brewers are tired of making them!

Three IPAs in a holiday-themed mix-pack is just insane. I’d buy that one brewery could do it, maybe by accident or they just had to clear out some inventory, but the idea that this is the new normal is frightening to me.

I’d like to see a nice dark porter with some piney hops reminiscent of Christmas trees. I’d like a nut brown with notes of vanilla and toffee. I’d like to see any creativity put into this nativity. Instead I get three IPAs and a coffee stout, or a ‘winter ale,’ or something like that. Guys, the dark, malty beer should be the rule this time of year, not the exception! So for the love of all that’s under 50 IBUs, can we please get on the same page here?

Once again, IPAs are fine. I like them. But is it too much to ask that maybe my Christmastime beer not taste like grapefruit and lemons? Come on, adventure and experimentation are half the reason most people become brewers. Let’s get innovative!

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