Craft beer is a culture, not a craze | Gourmand and Gourmet

Craft beer is a culture, not a craze

  • Food & Booze
The craft beer craze has seen the face of beer changed irrevocably over the last few years. While pale lager is still the overwhelming king of volume, flavoursome ales now abound, as do the crafty small bars that have sprung up to replace the old world boozer. But for all of the excitement our love affair with craft beer is still in its awkward adolescent stage, with much fumbling at clasps, enthusiastic – and sometimes clumsy – experimentation and occasional disappointment and regret. In our teenage years of beer discovery, we often find ourselves drawn to the enigmatic bad boys who will break our heart, or the hottie whose short skirt distracts us from her inability to carry a conversation, or at least their beer world equivalents. It’s an exciting time for craft beer. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven, and all that. For all the thought that has gone into flavour though, beer service is an area that has been slow to develop. Catering to exuberance, many venues see having the biggest beer list as the best thing they can offer, irrespective of how many of the beers get turned over or how old – and potentially diminished – they are when they do. Like beauty, the definition of a good bar truly lies in the eyes of the beerholder. Drinkers’ preferences on how they like their beer served can be highly personal as well. However, whether the furniture is recycled, the lights are Edison filaments and the timber stressed, there are some things that make a beer bar better. It’s not the size, it’s how you use it. Three hundred beers on a menu looks great, but how are they all tasting? Very few – if any – venues in Brisbane can turn even half that many over in a reasonable time. Beer is perishable, craft beer especially. A smaller, well-curated beer list that turns over and maintains freshness and quality is to be preferred over a list the equivalent of spaghetti thrown at the wall. Still, expect to see an arms race of list lengths and tap numbers over the next twelve months before sanity prevails. Less can be more and is better. With the US seen as the cradle of the craft beer movement, the straight-sided ‘shaker pint’ seems to have been adopted as the default craft beer service vessel. Make no mistake, these are horrid. At first they were a cool point of difference from the traditional pot or schooner glass, but they are just thick, heavy and awkward. They do nothing to enhance the flavour of beer or the experience of drinking. What’s more, they are huge. While the size provides an active deterrent for many to even try a beer, the ABV of many craft beers means that moderation can be a difficult thing to practice if more than one is sampled. Venues need to consider the beer they’re serving and select a glass of an appropriate size. While we’re talking glasses, a nice glass elevates the beer and the experience alongside the inherent flavour of the beer. Venues don’t need a different glass for every different beer, but a glass that enhances the beer and acknowledges that beer isn’t just consumed by blokes who have no objection to full-to-the-brim glasses and tables awash in beer. The same goes for mugs, which might lend a nice retro, vintage vibe to a venue, but again do nothing for the beer. And please, no mason jars. Know what you are selling. The days of wandering into a pub and asking for ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ are long gone. The difference between a Coopers Pale Ale, and English Pale Ale and Little Creatures Pale Ale could not be more stark. The people charged with selling them should be able to explain the difference. If it’s on the list, they should at least be able to answer a few simple questions about the brewery, the style and the beer. We expect it of wine these days, beer is no different. There are a lot of beer bars in Brisbane, but The Scratch just nails the finer points of great beer service making it one of the best in the country. You can transplant these things while leaving out the dive and the beards. And please, no mason jars. Really. Not ever. Words by Matt Kirkegaard