There have been times when beer friends have told me they are getting bored with beer, which prompted a reaction close to “Wha-wha-whaaaaat?! Sacrilege!” But lately I have felt the same way on occasion, though the feeling doesn’t usually last long. Being a hardcore beer geek – one that tracks release schedules, seeks out the new and unusual, will call and visit multiple stores to find the beer they want – is a time consuming hobby, especially when the payoff isn’t there when compared to cost (both monetary and time/energy).
One of the reasons I love beer (and I think a lot of people would agree with me) is the wide variety of styles and flavours. There may not be another beverage in existence with the possibility for such a wide range of flavours as beer. There are more beers than one could ever try in a lifetime. You may be like me and have a bucket list of ones to seek and try, though it seems like whenever I cross one off I find another to take its place. The search for new beers can go on forever if that’s your game. I would say that this is at least partially true for all beer geeks, whether you’re a ticker on Untappd/Rate Beer/Beeradvocate or not.
The problem I’m finding in my search for new beers is that it is becoming harder for a beer to absolutely blow me away. We all know that feeling of having a beer hit all of our pleasure centres at once and being transported to our happy place. This experience is becoming rare as I try more beers. Every new beer is being compared to the great number of beers that came before. Does it offer an interesting new flavour or flavour combination? Is it as good as that other beer in the same style? It’s becoming tougher to find a beer to really, truly excite me as my drinking history grows.
I am envious of people just starting out their exploration into the world of craft beer because of this. Everything is new and exciting when you’re just beginning to drink craft beer. There are so many firsts – one for every style of beer! My first imperial stout was probably the Wellington Russian Imperial Stout, sitting in front of the fireplace at C’est What. It was served in a pint glass and luckily the keg blew right after my pint, because I would have ordered more and had a very messy night not knowing the ABV of that strong beer. That pint was pretty fucking fantastic. The Welly RIS was in pretty limited production around then and I sought it out whenever it was made. Since then I’ve tried a lot of imperial stouts and my perception of the Wellington version is considerably different now. That’s not a comment on the quality of that beer, but just an example of how our tastes and perceptions change as we drink more beer. The Wellington version is a good introduction to the style, but it just touches on the possible flavours one can find in an imperial stout. It’s easy to think that every beer is great when you’re just starting to get into craft beer because, well, you just don’t know better! (I probably should have found a better example than the Wellington RIS as this paragraph sounds like a backhanded compliment. It is a beer that is still dear to me.)
It probably doesn’t help that my palate has become Americanized in the past six or seven years. Everything has to be bigger and stronger. Once you’ve become accustomed to really hoppy or really strong beers it is hard to train the palate to find equal joy in the subtleties of a clean lager or low ABV British ale. Is there any wonder why I love the session IPA because I need the big hops but don’t always want the alcohol? It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that there’s a correlation between my preference for beer styles and the occasional bit of beer fatigue.
So why do I keep going? Though the “Oh god this is so good I’m so happy I could die right now” moments are rare these days, it’s still a pretty special feeling when it happens. While I like bourbon, scotch and food, none of those other things gives the same satisfaction as an amazing beer does. I’m also grateful that brewers are still experimenting, which means that new flavours are out there waiting for me to try and get obsessed over (currently infatuation – brett IPAs). When a time of beer fatigue does hit, I’m happy to drink something else and give my palate and neural synapses a chance to hit refresh, knowing that beer will always be waiting for me when I’m ready to come back. And I always come back.