“Adapt or Die.” – Pieter Willem Botha (1979), Prime Minister, South Africa from 1978-1984. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic, but it is without a doubt a right and proper aphorism, particularly as it pertains to business (and other things, but we won’t get into that other stuff here). This is about the business of beer, and if you are a bar focused on the craft beer crowd, you’re looking for new ways to push the limits – greater diversity and quality in beer and food…more flavors, better meals, better beers. One of the hazards of my job has been that I have had to deal with brewpubs (as part of the above) which have fallen under the following combinations:


Good beer, bad food

Bad beer, good food

Bad beer, bad food

Good beer, good food

The ones in the third category don’t last long. As for the others – as long as you’re doing one element well, you’ve got a fighting chance. But it’s always nice to see gastropubs, taphouses and brewpubs strive to improve in all areas, regardless of how good things are already going. Why, might you ask, am I bringing this up? Simple. One of our own, here in Frederick, is changing with the times. Big new things are coming at Barley and Hops. If you’ve missed it, the announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page was as follows:

It’s Oktoberfest time at Barley And Hops!! Our annual fall Marzen, Oktoberfest Bier, releases [today] September 24th. Then check out our Oktoberfest weekend specials by our new Head Chef, Kevin Barnette. Come on in and join us for a week long celebration of the fall harvest, it’s OKTOBERFEST

Brewmaster Larry Pomerantz said, “We have an Oktoberfest release [today] and a special Oktoberfest menu starting Friday… We also have our first beer dinner on October 17th for the release of Cornucopia featuring local fall harvest foods.” Pomerantz added that he and chef Kevin are excited at the prospect of “turning [Barley and Hops] into [a] working class gastro-pub.” Simply put, it is the natural evolution of the industry. Now get out there and experience the new flavors.

Interesting but flawed

So, there was an interesting article posted to the net by Business Insider. The idea behind the article is an analysis of data that notes that many craft beer drinkers rate full bodied, full flavored ales higher than they do the mass-produced lagers. This is pretty much the key paragraph;

Essentially, experts are much more inclined to give strong ales a higher rating. Experts also have much stronger opinions about all beers. They dislike cheap lagers (like Bud Light) more than the novices hate cheap lagers. And they like the strong ales more than the novices like the strong ales.

This is followed up by what I believe to be a faulty, and amateurish analysis of the data;

There are two factors at play, [says a homebrewer]. One is taste-fatigue: The more beer you drink, the more you need a strong beer to keep interested. The other element is social conformity. Once the group has decided that strong tastes are superior, then everyone in the group feels the need to conform to that. He relates a fascinating observation that when he enters beer competitions, his mediocre strong beers tend to rate higher than his well-executed mild beers.

Honestly, I’m not even sure where to start with this. Maybe I just hangout with a better educated class of beer drinker than the people involved in this article, but the homebrewers and other assorted beer geeks that I tend to hang out with I have noticed do not confuse strong with higher quality. Personally, I feel like barleywines in particular have been a difficult style for even professional brewers to get right, and there are an awful lot of those beers that are offered on the market that are just not that good.

I get a lot of the other points that this article makes, and don’t necessarily dispute them. Peer pressure creating experts where they don’t exist? Sure, I can see that. Taste fatigue? That’s them just reaching for reasons.

Here’s the thing about the people who really know beer. I mean really understand the brewing process; those who really know and understand beer, the hardcore homebrewers, the professionals, the BJCP judges, and even the amateurs who have bothered to truly educate themselves, these are people that understand that light lagers and pilsners are the hardest beers to do well. Maybe they aren’t that individual’s preferred taste, but those people still appreciate a well made pils.

Sure, often bigger beer equals more flavor. But it doesn’t equal better flavor. And those who really know beer know that. And they don’t change their opinions due to peer pressure.

Tapped and Uncapped

Given my rant in the last section, you might think I would go with a session beer or something with less complex flavors, but I’m going bigger, in part due to the season. This week I am recommending the Full Tilt Patterson Pumpkin Ale. The Patterson is an interesting pumpkin beer – it has a nice combination of that pumpkin pie spice in the front end which people often look for. The tail end has a little bit of heat from the higher alcohol content, imparting just a hint of burn on the way down.

It’s an enjoyable beer, but definitely a sipping beer.

Until next week, be well and drink good beer.