I’m interested in extreme beer as a concept. I want to know what it means. I have a lot of questions about it.
Is ‘extreme’ about the ingredients used to give an extremity of experience - strength or bitterness, for example? Is it to do exotic ingredients like fruits or spice? Is barrel-aging a constituent of extreme? Wild yeast? Imperial yeasts? Does it now need to incorporate extra tricks to be extreme – Randall the Enamel Animal, perhaps? Does packaging or the beer name count? What about marketing?
I think the notion of extreme beer is changing. Not long ago a 9% beer would’ve been scoffed at but now it’s scoffed down. Beers which rip your tongue to pieces with hop bitterness are craved rather than feared. Strong beers are cool. Barrel aging is normal. The words Imperial and Double are familiar. I’ve tasted a lot of fruit and spice recently - the different ingredients being used are no longer shocking.
I find the notion of ‘extreme’ difficult to succinctly put down in a few words because my mind is on a rollercoaster of different thoughts: it’s awesome, hit me harder; it’s terrible; it’s so specialist; it’s us vs. them; it’s all too Dionysian (it’s becoming Apollonian); it’s a bastardisation; I want my beers hoppier, darker, crazier; I want my beers easier drinking, lighter, sessionable; I want to see what’s coming next, I want to taste it.
Beer is always changing and moving forward so it’s natural that the outer reaches of its capabilities are explored. But is this a progression of beer? Or is it just too much? Are brewers having to get more creative to satisfy the thirst for extremities? Or do they need to get smarter? What now counts as extreme? Are beers shocking now? And if not then how far will a brewer need to go to shock? Are British beers getting more extreme (not just BrewDog)? And, perhaps most importantly, do you like and drink extreme beer? Whatever that may be.
I got the picture from here. Maybe that’s the next step.