""It's the Blend of the World As We Know It""
by Clay Moore

there will eventually come a time when enough is enough from a consumer standpoint.

I recently read an article in ASN that predicted a return to session beers with
lower ABV as the next phase in craft. Though I do agree with the writer's position
that IPA fatigue will eventually set in, I don't think that high gravity beers are going
anywhere soon. In a society where we crave 3 pound burgers topped with a baby
pig wearing a bacon sweater, will we ever be satisfied with "regular" beer again?  
Moderation has unfortunately been kicked to the curb.

I think the next phase in craft, which will operate to reinvigorate the
brewer/consumer relationship, is more craft blend offerings at bars and restaurants.   

Blends are not new. For years, bars have poured Black & Tans and brewers have
created bottled blends of fresh and aged beers. While some bars do offer blends and
mix it in their liquor drinks, those places are few and far between in New Jersey.  

Pick a handful of good beer bars that you frequent and ask yourself these questions:

(1)  Have you ever ordered a blend?
(2)  Does the bar offer a blend on their menu?
(4)  If you ordered a blend, did you get a weird look from the bartender?

The social media traffic about pumpkin beer tappings in New Jersey is at an
all time high, so I am clearly the odd man out when I say that I just don't care for
pumpkin beers. However, when I poured a little Pumpking atop my Breakfast Stout,
I really enjoyed it. The Black & Orange was enjoyable, as the stout masked some
(but not all) of the flavors that steer me away from pumpkin beers. This week
I poured equal parts Hipp O' Lantern with some Black Jack Porter. That very night,
a Black Hippo was born in the bar -- and it wasn't as messy as one would think.

I'm not particularly fond of sour beers, but I'm more inclined to mix them with
something than to simply pass on it, since the instinct of ordering a glass of
beer is usually an "all or nothing" proposition.

The possibilities are endless at places where taps are constantly rotating and
if the blends are more or less than an equal share. Sometimes, just a splash
of something is all you need to mix things up. Having 2 four packs at your house
now gives you at least 3 options to drink, and we always like to have options.
This gives you, the drinker, an opportunity to experiment with a new flavor every
time you have a beer. Factor in the opportunity to create your own clever name
for the beer you created, and you will forget that there are 20 new
West Coast style IPAs to be released this week.  

From a bar standpoint, you're showing creativity and providing options to
your customers. A menu that suggests blends will avoid the awkward call
across the bar from one bartender to another, "This guy wants me to mix
some beer with another beer? Is that ok? Another positive is that you may
convert non-crafties to beer by offering something that they didn't even
know existed. Finally,  the differing gravities of beer can result in 2, 3 and
perhaps 4 layering opportunities, which is visually appealing as well.

So clean off that old Guinness bar spoon that's collecting dust.  

The easy counter to blends is that it's wrong to mix quality beers or rare drafts,
which would be "wasting" them. Really? To those folks, say what you want,
but since you aren't buying my beer, I'm really not that concerned. Just
remember that the creativity and open-mindedness that pervades the craft
beer industry is likely what brought you there in the first place. That is
what makes blends such an obvious next step into the mainstream.  

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finish off a 5XIPA made with a hop strain
so rare that I had to sign a waiver at the liquor store not to disclose its name.  

And I feel fine.
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