Friday, November 11, 2005

Fashion Trend Alert - White painter's pants are out - big beers are IN!

Typically, a beer is considered “big”when it is over 8 or 9 % in alcohol. Historically, this was left to a couple of specific styles. Imperial stouts, barleywine and even malt liquor were terms and style categories that were expected to be stronger and bigger in flavor. Flavor and strength in fact, are not mutually exclusive in big beers. Remember that alcohol is created when yeast ferments wort by consuming sugar. The more sugar, the more alcohol is produced. The sugar comes from grain, which is packed with malty flavor. So, if you want a really big, flavorful beer, you might find it a bit stronger in alcohol. If you want a strong, higher alcohol beer, you’ll find big malt flavors are part of the equation. It’s a classic chicken and the egg riddle with benefits.

Today, breweries are frequently venturing into new styles, or adapting traditional ones. You’ll find the words Imperial and Double attached to more styles than ever before. They’re connotations of both strength and flavor expectations. You may have even heard that there is an “Extreme Beer” movement underfoot, gaining many breweries notoriety for their robust creations.

One nice thing about trends is that once in a while, they come around and shed a little light on something you’re already doing. Rather than chasing the trend, New Holland has been making big beers for quite some time. In fact, we’ve even branded the category under our High Gravity Series that you may be familiar with. High Gravity is somewhat of a technical term from the brewhouse that basically means – “big beer.”

I think it’s important to talk about why. Why do we make these beers, and how do they fit into our lineup? Why do people look for these beers, and what are they looking for?

I think it all boils down to balance. We expect every beer we make to be well balanced. While an IPA like Mad Hatter is a beer and a style that definitely showcases the hop, we don’t believe it has to shout, or beat us over the head with them. We look at our portfolio of beers and expect the same balance. We want to have a stable of beers that includes good every-day drinkin’ beers and beers that fit a special occasion. We want beers that are simple and refreshing, warm and comforting as well as creative beers that challenge us as brewers, artisans and connoisseurs. But, what’s important is that we don’t want one without the other. We want balance.

The High Gravity Series gives us that balance. It’s the collection of beers that we feel lets the brewery stretch its legs and push some boundaries. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy big, warm, pleasing beers that we might not want every day. On top of that, it is an area where our obligation to consistency is slightly different. In order to welcome new ideas, the lineup, the beer, or even the package may change more frequently than in our Mainstay and Seasonal offerings. If you're a connoisseur, (read: beer geek) or someone that has a driving curiosity for “what’s new and different” take a look at our High Gravity Beers both in bottle or on tap see what you think! Big Beers are in. What else is new?

What I dream of is an art of balance.
Henri Matisse


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