9. LIQUID CULTURE: Craft Beer Aging (as in Maturing)
Craft beer isn’t new to the American drinking scene. But just like mixology has found a way to exist without feeling compelled to stand out, craft beer is veering away from visibility-via-novelty to basic, proven craftsmanship. “I’ve seen a move toward balance and restraint in the craft beer movement,” says DBGB Beer Sommelier Jon Langley. “I feel like all the experimentation in brewing, especially American brewing, has finally led people to realize the importance of basics: good water, appropriate yeast strains, well-integrated hops, etc.” Not that craft beer will ever abandon its specialties, hop-heavy IPA monsters, and their delicious ilk. Greg Engert of Birch & Barley reminds us that specialty beers are just one of the bonuses of craft beer, and this year we’ve tasted enough to know they won’t be going away (especially the Lompoc Strong Draft, a.k.a. LSD). “Pretty Things does a stout called Babyaga that has some of the malt smoked over rosemary,” says Langley. “Yet at no point do you drink the beer and say ‘Oh that’s neat, smoked rosemary. Next.’…It’s about the beer as a whole piece, not the novelty of its parts.” We wonder if these integrated, savory, complex beer styles will add to the variety of beer somms, Cicerones, and beer pairings we’ve seen.