I think people get to a stage in their life when they don’t like things to change. They are comfortable with what they know and are happy to go to their grave thinking that if they came back to life in a hundred years’ time everything would be exactly the same.
There are exceptions of course, including my mother, who can’t abide anything old fashioned and, despite being nearly 80, is constantly renewing furniture, decorations and other paraphernalia around house and garden. Saying that she also thinks cask conditioned ale is a new-fangled thing and would rather enjoy what she’s familiar with, keg beer, but that’s another story.
But I want to talk about beer styles. Some come about through rigorous experimentation and road testing. Others by accident.
During my time in malting I was told about how in the ‘old days’ beers tended to be pale but occasionally fires at the maltsters meant that there was some darker malts to be had. Nothing would be wasted. One can only imagine what beers came out of such accidents. It’s only latterly that the roasting of malts has become more scientific and predictable.
It is often said that one of the reasons stout remained more popular in Ireland is due to tax being levied on malt rather than the gravity or strength and roasted barley isn’t malted you see. But stout is hugely popular.
Some styles remain popular for a while then dwindle away waiting for their time to come again. Brown Ales have been brewed for over 200 years and strengths have varied a lot with weaker nut brown ales popular in the early 20th century and then dying out except for one or two brands. The stronger versions certainly did except for in the North east of England.
So, I find comfort in these old styles. They are still around for a reason. They work.
I’m not saying there is nothing new to come out on the beer scene but I think it would be an arrogant brewer to announce that they had something new, radical and flying in the face of traditional brewing practice that will actually survive into next week let alone next year.
Yes, raw ingredients are becoming more interesting and hops in particular, as I’ve said before, are leading the way but as it says in the Bible, there’s nothing new under the sun.
Saying all this I find it interesting what is coming out of the industry and it leads to some heated discussions in our brewery. I want a more balanced and conservative approach to the future and some would like to try something a bit more outrageous.
The £25,000 investment in our pilot plant allows us to try out small quantities (500 litre brew length) and if it doesn’t work there is no great loss.
So, what do you think they’ll be drinking in the 22nd century on the beer front?