Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

A Plague of Citrus Flavours

by Helen Thu Apr 18th, 2013 at 04:51:27 PM EST

Beer, like so many other consumer products, suffers from fashions. Somebody establishes a new idea that proves popular and then, before you know it, everybody is doing it, trying to cash in.


Twenty five years ago, beer in the UK was either brown with complex malty goodness or it was Guinness; with maybe a light ale just to give it a different flavour. Yellow was for lager and tasteless nonsense. As for the concept of hoppiness; unless you were actually involved in brewing, that was just that strange peppery taste you sometimes got in the back of the throat when you swallowed the beer. Apparently that was the bitterness, but if you didn’t really know how to interpret that information, that didn't really help.

Then a beer called Summer Lightning came along. Yellow it was, but sharp, bitter and more-ish as well. It was a revelation and stole drinker’s tastebuds. Other brewers took note and decided that they’d have some of that, thank you very much. Of course, it helps that yellow beers are cheaper to produce (pale malts have more fermentable sugars) and so are more profitable These days malty beers are rare as rocking horse manure while it seems that most real ales are a golden something or other.

Meanwhile, hoppiness has gone through a dozen fashion cycles, each one increasingly assertive. Now we have hops which are grapefruit, kiwi fruit or even tangerine in flavour. We are in the throes of what should be termed a Citric Revolution.

Over here, BrewDog started it off, about 6 years back and inspired by the cousins across the pond, BD brought out their “PunkIPA” which, for the time, was a revelation. A no-nonsense aggressively grapefruit hop flavour that was the first British beer to emulate the big hop boomers we’d been enjoying from the USA. It was rightly successful.

Of course, when something becomes dominantly popular, the problems start. At the moment all brewers seem to be playing with new hops, hoping to be the first to get their hands on the next big flavour thing. For a punter selecting a beer it seems you have to carry a copy of Hop Growers monthly, know your hops and the impact they have on beer. American Citra. New Zealand Sauvin, Mouteka, then find the brewers who do single varietal hop beer. Keep up to date. It’s great for the scoopers and tickers (beer anoraks), but for everyone else, not so much. I admit I lost track a while back.

I must say I really wouldn’t mind, I really enjoy many of the great beers that there are around these days, but most of these new hop beers are dull. It seems that, to show off the new varieties, the brewers think that all they have to do is concoct some thin golden beer with little intrinsic flavour as a base and then add in the hop de jour and hey presto, a brand new beer. Maybe I’m not the most discerning of tasters but to me they all appear to be some combination of grapefruit and lemon. They’re samey and boring, forgivable perhaps, but I just don’t think they’re very good beers and I’m sick to death of them.

You see, for all that everybody says they’re following the lead of the Americans, you won’t find any of the USian brewers making the sort of thin hoppy slop now found all over the UK. Yes, they brew hoppy bitter beers but, they do so much more than that. For all their hop innovation, their beers are full-bodied with a rounded and dangerously drinkable flavour.

I’m probably coming over as some grumpy romantic nostalgic for the days when beers were rancid and tasted of dust and flies, but I’m not. There are some cracking beers being made today, better beers than I’ve ever had. It’s just that they all taste of so much more than just lemon or grapefruit.

Display:
I don't know if I've had the sort of citrus beer you're describing at all.  Admittedly, pretty much no craft beers make it out to Japan.  

I did have a beer that tasted like whiskey.  That was something I had to respect, though it wasn't to my taste at all.

by Zwackus on Thu Apr 18th, 2013 at 11:41:02 PM EST
That sounds like an Innis and Gunn beer. It's not my thing either but some people like them.

Thee are craft brewers (an essay's coming about that as well) in Japan. Try teh google

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 02:49:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was German, a Rochbeer or something like that.
by Zwackus on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 04:59:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rauchbier, a german smoked beer ? Hmmm, I can sort of get to a whisky flavour cos of the smokiness, but it wouldn't have been my first thought.

Still, horses for courses. If i's not your thing, there's plenty of other types of beer out there

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 06:27:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like the bitter that hops bring (traditional ales without hops are not my cup of tea). I'm quite happy if they also bring a fairly complex after-taste, floral-but-not-too-much. I haven't tried any of these citrussy hop beers, but I'm not in a hurry to, because I don't like citrus fruits added to beer.

Memory: Chez Félix in Carcassonne, the waiter serves us white beer with a slice of lemon floating on the top. Helen, in emergency mode, seizes a spoon and flips the lemon slice on to the table like it was some disgusting bug. Object lesson.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 03:47:27 AM EST
PROUD

My job here is done

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 04:17:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(no, no, keep on blogging... :-) )
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 04:21:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing to do with citrus flavored beer, but I was at a sales meeting recently that was held in one of those very fancy restaurants where they normally only admit the 1%. We met in a room set up to look like a wine cellar (apparently that is the rage in these places, I've been in several now and that formula seems to prevail) and everybody was looking through the wine list to find the most expensive glass of wine that they could put onto the salesman's expense account.

So I asked the waiter for a Guinness, partly to show my personal disdain for their whole setup and partly because I wanted a Guinness. They didn't have it, or any other stouts, and only one porter in a can. Something from a local brewery and I didn't bother to write down the name because I'm not planning to be back in that neck of the woods again.

It was fun sitting there drinking a glass of brown stuff from a beer glass while everybody else pretended to know about wine. If they ever come out here to the sticks here I will show them my vineyard...

by asdf on Wed May 1st, 2013 at 03:47:22 PM EST
Ponsy wine drinkers can be awfully snotty about beer. There's a well known wine critic in London who famously refuses to drink beer because it's beneath his dignity.

All the more for me I say. Mind you, it does mean that I don't go to wine bars a lot. I'm sure the loss is all mine

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 6th, 2013 at 04:25:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have now seen parts of Den stora ölresan where the clip of the Stella marketing executive came from. Quite good documentary in three parts. The over-riding question is why do we have the particular beer habits we have. He answers by looking at history, in particular brewing history, regulation and marketing. He talks a lot with marketing people and confirms that the taste is of course of little importance to them - well, it can't be disgusting but otherwise they don't care.

The Stella bit was part of a general argument that lagers pretty much taste the same, if you do blind tests. We perceive a lot of difference from our own ideas about the differences.

His overall conclusion is that we drink what we drink because it says something about ourselves. Branding in other words.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 8th, 2013 at 03:36:34 AM EST
I had a good beer the other day. In Finland.

I tried various canned and on-tap local stuff, despite Elder Daughter's warnings. Let's just say I didn't find anything I liked.

Then on a boat-restaurant on the river in Turku, I asked the waiter what a beer lover should order. He brought me a pint of locally-brewed IPA, I've forgotten the name of the brewery, but it brought tears to my eyes. Charged me nine euros for it, mind. I suspect it's one of these citrussy beers you're talking about. A moving experience.

Up till then, I was started to think the best beer of the trip was the Oettinger I had on the Lufthansa flight. But my faith in humanity is restored.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 03:58:27 AM EST
A friend back from a car trip to Germany gave us a few bottles of Oettinger recently. Quite pleasant, but, as Helen says of these German beers, rather banal.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 05:17:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, now I remember, it was a Warsteiner.

But I will take good, banal bier any day over the stuff they drink in Finland.

No, I didn't stay long enough to be qualified to dismiss a nation's brewing prowess so... dismissively. On the basis that "90% of everything is crap", it's probably fair to say that I would have been just as unimpressed drinking random popular beers in most countries (I would except Belgium and Germany, there are probably other countries to add to that list)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 09:08:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I made the mistake of drinking the locally popular beer in Berlin once, on the theory that it shouldn't be possible to sell bad beer in Germany.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 02:10:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Berliner Weisse ? Only drink it with the wormwood essense (the green stuff). Then it's fantastic. But it's not so much a beer as a soft drink, being only 2% proof (or something like that)

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 03:44:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forget the label. It was some years ago.

Pretty sure it was a pilsner, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 04:23:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland isn't really a beer country. Neither is Sweden, so I am not dissing on the former eastern half of the realm. Flavorless lagers is what we have.

If you want drinks with history up here, it is all in the booze department.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 05:25:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was aware of this, but I'm not a spirits man. And there was a fair amount of beer drinking going on, and frankly it was beer weather (absolutely phenomenal, especially compared to the cold wet French spring I came back to.)

This was at about 9.30 pm on Monday.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed May 15th, 2013 at 06:55:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Lowdown - Quality Swedish beer

I know and like Skottskallens beer. I've had a Nils Oskar beer, which was very good, but don't know their range very well.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu May 16th, 2013 at 03:34:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It turns out the beer was from Koulu brew pub, and now I'm offended that my daughter didn't take me there. She'd better have a good excuse, the reviews are excellent.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu May 16th, 2013 at 09:55:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Danes are about to make it look as though you are complaining about nothing.
Frøst and his team will collect plants, spices and other raw materials to combine and develop new flavours. "Woodruff is already used to flavour beer in Berlin, so I want to make syrup out of that. Then there's nuts, juniper, bee larvae, fungi - and that's just the starting point." Is there anything he wouldn't put in a beer? "No ... but I'm sure we'll discover things that won't taste so good. Only one in every 20 or 30 combinations we try will work."
"starting point" - does licorice come next?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun May 19th, 2013 at 03:44:49 PM EST
Been done. Doesn't really work.

Vodka and licorice on the other hand...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun May 19th, 2013 at 04:07:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Licorice beers do exist, but they're an acquired taste. Too much licorice doesn't work in a beer and the Danish WMD stuff is better suited to flavoring drain cleaner ;-))

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon May 20th, 2013 at 08:54:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]