Craft Beer| Industry & Culture

The Wayward Somm: My Kingdom for a Porter

By Trevor Bernatchez

Before joining BevSpot, Trevor Bernatchez spent over 15 years in the world of restaurants and wine retail.  After becoming a Certified Sommelier in 2015, Trevor was looking for new challenges for his career in the beverage industry. As BevSpot’s Sr. Manager of Customer Education, Trevor uses his years of experience and education to help others become more successful with their bars and restaurants.


If you cut back on the number of different ways you stock Bud Light, you’ll be amazed at how much space is going to open up in your walk-in...



 

Being a native New Englander, and a HUGE proponent of the craft beer movement, I was thrilled to learn we were officially getting our own certified beer style in 2018.

New England IPA is described by the BJCP (the world’s pre-eminent body for judging and classifying beer styles) as, ‘An American IPA with intense fruit flavors and aromas, a soft body, and smooth mouthfeel, and often opaque with substantial haze.’

Lots of beers will have New England IPA or New England-Style IPA printed right on the label these days (more on this later). The most famous one that comes to mind is the legendary (and pioneering) Heady Topper by Alchemist Brewing Co. in Vermont (so O.G. it doesn't even need NEIPA on the label).

As a beer lover first, and an IPA lover coming in a close second, I have a massive amount of respect for these beers.

Trevor Heady Topper
(Nothing better than a frosty Heady Topper on a fine Vermont afternoon)

A LOT of work goes into brewing the beer we drink. On top of that, I know how hard it is to achieve that perfect, glowing hop-haze with dry-hopping (I’ve failed more times than I’d like to mention with my own home-brew projects), settling down with one of these beers is one of the greatest pleasures in my world.

 

Now that I’ve outlined my love affair with New England IPA, let me tell you why I’m having a hard time with it.

It seems like I can’t buy anything else these days. I go into my local liquor store to buy some tasty suds, and all I have to choose from are 20 different New England IPAs. Now this might sound like a great problem to have, but just because IPA is my favorite style of beer doesn’t mean I only want to shop for IPA.

Different days, moods, and meals definitely require different beers, and they aren’t all golden, hazy, and hoppy. One of the biggest reasons that I am a big supporter of the craft movement is because it allows us to learn about new styles and tastes that we may have never experienced before. It allows us to expand our palates, evolve our tastes, and in some cases blow our minds. If all we are doing is cycling through the same style over and over, we can never expect to push the limits down the line.

That being said, I would never fault a brewer for creating a product that is hot on the market right now. It is so difficult for smaller breweries to turn a dollar with the behemoths like AB-InBev hiding around every corner looking to stomp you out. If you know you can at least fund your next batch by introducing the market to another New England IPA, by all means have at it.

The issue I have lies with the beer buyers out there, but I also understand their predicament. Having been in similar positions with wine and liquor myself, you have to keep the shelves stocked with what is selling in order to keep cash moving into the business...I get it. But that being said, other beer styles do exist...lots of them (like over 100 actually). It’s really easy to be the person who just orders the same thing to stock the shelves with, but the real professional skill comes in balancing your SKUs with variety and educating your patrons on the differing styles. If you cut back on the number of different ways you stock Bud Light, you’ll be amazed at how much space is going to open up in your walk-in.

 

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