Bitter Beer Battle Over "Extreme" Brews?

Nov 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Well, beer school didn't happen this week. Surgery on my knee was my first priority. Unfortunately, I won't be able to imbibe as long as I'm on medication. This could be a good personal challenge for me.

click to enlarge An IBU-tiful brew?
An IBU-tiful brew?

An IBU-tiful brew?

Anyway, even if I am down for the count, that doesn't mean the world of beer stops spinning!

Controversy is bubbling up on the beer connoisseur Web site Beer Advocate over the recent New Yorker article "A Better Brew".

Extreme beers -- beers that include a lot of hops and international bitterness units (IBUs) -- are the focus of the piece, which notes typical India Pale Ale is six percent ABV and includes 20 IBU's.

Dogfish Head brewery, a southern Delaware company, is known for experimenting with beer in ways some consider excessive -- think twice the alcohol content and fives times the IBU's.

So what's the problem? Find out after the jump...

In seems that in the course of interviewing Garrett Oliver, the brew master at Brooklyn Brewery, New Yorker writer Burkhard Bilger might have taken a few quotes out of context about his opinions of Dogfish Head. That's what Oliver is claiming anyway.

"I think the article is tremendous for Dogfish and for craft beer in general," he posted on Beer Advocate on Monday.

"I'm disappointed that I allowed myself to get played, but when you talk to media, there's always the possibility you'll get singed. I'm sure that my eyebrows will grow back by next week."

Oliver explains in an earlier post that his getting played mostly revolved around his quote in the article that "highly hopped beers are akin to highly hopped soup."

"The quote appears to be correct, but is taken out of context," Oliver writes. "The reporter asked me what I thought about brewers who brag that 'my beer has 150 IBUs,' etc. And my point is that this is a very silly thing to brag about, therefore the chef analogy. If a chef bragged about his tremendous level of chilis or salt, you would not be likely to say 'wow, what a great chef.' Or, rather, many people wouldn't."

As of Friday afternoon, I couldn't find any response from Bilger. For my two cents, I like both beers. If this gets any hotter, I would be happy to broker a sudsy peace agreement at Camp David.

-Matt Kasper